MIT List Visual Arts Center
October 22, 2021 – February 13, 2022
Curated by Natalie Bell

Sreshta Rit Premnath creates works in sculpture, video, photography, and installation that draw on the formal legacies of minimalism and conceptualism to think through the politics of boundaries, bodies, and labor in contemporary life. In Premnath’s work, the use of a line, for example, is never neutral or abstract, but rather speaks to the power to demarcate and displace. The corrugated panels, cardboard, metal fencing, or cargo and freight materials that compose his works are not merely convenient modular readymades, but the raw material that visibly indexes “development” and the consolidation of wealth that often results. Recently, questions of space—who can own or occupy it—have guided Premnath’s work, as have the artist’s investigations of visibility, invisibility, and misrecognition as part of the everyday experiences of those who are marginalized.

In Grave/Grove, Premnath debuts a body of work that examines the ways in which natural, political, and human time are interconnected. The exhibition reflects the artist’s interest in how shared spaces of growth and care, such as community gardens or nurseries, can be embedded within dehumanizing spaces of collective discipline and confinement. such as detention centers or refugee camps. Inspired by the role of gardening in the lives of incarcerated people or refugees. Premnath presents a material exploration of life that exists in otherwise inhospitable spaces. In his new works, live plants—species that are considered to be weeds—emerge from the gaps between aluminum panels, which are cut to the scale and shape of unfurled cardboard boxes. Within some of these sculptural assemblages, plaster-coated foam figures slump and lie together, their “bodies” merging with the ground as they too become sites for growth. The flat metal box-like forms allude to the discarded commercial packaging often repurposed by those who lack permanent housing to create temporary places of rest. The use of plants that are typically identified as weeds calls attention to the correspondence between horticultural and social systems, and what, or who, is deemed undesirable, or subject to removal. As the artist observes, “Although humans categorize and ostracize some beings, nature proliferates without judgement.”

This exhibition is curated by Natalie Bell, Curator, MIT List Visual Arts Center, and is co-organized by the MIT List Visual Arts Center and the Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati, where a one-person exhibition curated by Amara Antilla is on view fro September 17, 2021 to February 27, 2022. A special edition of the artist’s journal. Shifter 25: Waiting. co-edited by Avi Alpert and Premnath, is published on the occasion of these exhibitions and resulted from a series of eight virtual dialogues between artists, architects historians, and theorists that were convened by Shifter and co-hosted by the List Center and CAC in fall 2020 and spring 2021

All photos: Julia Featheringill