The palimpsest enjoys a comfortable prominence in the modern art historical canon. The classic example remains Erased De Kooning Drawing, a 1953 Neo-Dadaist morsel by Robert Rauschenberg, in which the artist solicited a heavily worked charcoal drawing from an artist he admired and subsequently spent months obliterating it through the use of a variety of tools. In the decades since that piece’s controversial “completion” and eventual display, process-based works that figure heavily on subtraction and erasure have become a routine part of modern and contemporary abstraction.

Garrett Pruter, born in 1987, brings a particularly lush sensibility to established notions of painterly austerity and minimal mark making. His current exhibition, “Traces,” at Judith Charles Gallery, presents a series of compositions that are at once both dense and disconcertingly empty, like a low-res satellite photograph of an arctic tundra, or a pattern of late-night broadcast television static, exhumed from the pre-digital world. Like many of his contemporaries, Pruter begins from a point of photographic appropriation: the artist has collected unfussy amateur snapshots since his teen years, using them as fodder for his dynamic, snowblind compositions, although the results are so distilled you’d never know their origin unless you politely asked.

Pruter’s paintings are equal parts void, grime, and sublimity. They reward close inspection, and concentration reveals in similar measure the whorls and wends of the artist’s process as well as a dizzying measure of impenetrable darkness, despite their pervading whiteness. Anyone who’s ever paused to conduct a close examination of a three-month old-urban snowbank, soaked to capacity with truck exhaust and cigarette butts, yet still possessed of its original, miraculously crystalline structure, somehow essentially unsullied despite all the filth, will feel right at home in front of one of Pruter’s intricate, nearly blank canvases.

“Traces” runs through Sunday at Judith Charles Gallery, 196 Bowery, New York.

Kevin Greenberg is the art editor of The Last Magazine. He is also a practicing architect and the principal of Space Exploration, an integrated architecture and interior design firm located in New York. In addition to his work for The Last Magazine, Kevin is an editor of PIN-UP, a semi-annual “magazine for architectural entertainment.”

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