After 'Hungry For After': 2021 MFA Thesis Work at UMN's Katherine E. Nash Gallery

After 'Hungry For After': 2021 MFA Thesis Work at UMN's Katherine E. Nash Gallery

Published June 23rd, 2021 by Cameron P. Downey

Open only by appointment last month, the exhibition of seven MFA grads touched on objects, histories, and emotions just out of grasp

Hungry For After, the recent exhibition of MFA thesis work at UMN’s Katherine E. Nash Gallery, first greets viewers with a legion of ghosts. The black matte words of the show’s title sit against a somehow even blacker-backing. The hunger, then, veiled and laying in wait. Each artist’s dispatch stands discrete from their classmates, tied by what emerges subtly as their communication with the very hunger of its name. Throughout the gallery, restfulness waits behind orange curtains, archive ripples through the digital, forms lose and find their way. Apparitions, hospitable as they seem, meander an endless journey. The entirety of Hungry For After grasps across mediums the syntax of what it means to want.

Caitlin Skaalrud, foreground: the me behind the closed door, installation, 2021. On wall: A and B, digital comic, 2021.

The welcoming ghosts — fashioned delicately in paper skins – stand only by the points of material that graze the floor beneath. Part of an installation by Caitlin Skaalrud, the specters begin sparsely, coalescing in population at the foot of an artist’s drawing table, painted entirely white. Above it, the largest of them floats in front of a long graphic narrative comic strip mounted on the wall. Their words traverse through memory, liminality, and belonging. Whether the ghosts, delicate and revered, have found their home or are still in search of it remains to be seen. What’s important perhaps, is the journey —  one that’s ornate and ethereal.  

Nicholas Bauch, System for Embodying Landscape: Twin Cities, mixed media installation and performance, 2018-2021.

Meandering the bending walls of the Nash Gallery, your eyes settle on the warmth of tangerine curtains sheathing a thin, sleek camping chair. On the floor beside it, an open suitcase carries only thick, academic books. The semi-room created by Nicholas Bauch fills with air; glass shelves carry glass jars of sand and other collectibles, sitting below arid landscapes. “DWELL>MOVE” assigns the space, placing the collections of prints and items in stillness. In the corner of one photograph, against a perfectly blue sky, a gallon of water teeters down. No water falls from it. In the spirit of the hierarchy of those words that name the space, a print and its halves — taking up nearly an entire wall — is dizzying at first glance. Bauch’s ecology of branches and their counterparts weave into one another and collapse infinitely downward. The image nearly vibrates, insular and bustling with wood, dirt, and the unintelligible in betweens. In the center of the room sits a cassette deck and some tapes. There’s an ask, subversive in a year of society-wide hand sanitizing, for you to pop in the tapes and have a listen. Next to it, another touchable item which reads with comfort and few words.  

R.C. Tibbott; Gestures of Pressure and Time; ceramics, paper, metal, found objects; 2021

What follows in the next gallery space is a chorus of seriality from R.C. Tibbot. Tactile military issue boots flop and stand at attention alongside over 100 delicately propped ceramic bases of what could have been vases or bowls. Each base has been destroyed, cut short in faintly different manners. The crowd of possibilities they create grids neatly on a giant square of white floor. The boots are worn, dilapidated almost; the square, quiet and demanding.  

Grant McFarland, Cash and Carry (detail), 2021, installation view

Perhaps in the same neighborhood of thought, Grant McFarland takes inventory of the necessary. “BED / SPOON / SHIRT / PLAYING CARDS / STOOL / BUTTER.” All the named items scatter themselves throughout the room, single twins to separate items that are clearly elsewhere: an empty clothes hanger, a spoon-shaped cut-out in wood. Butter, nearly a pound, sits chilling behind the door of a tinted fridge — dated and named by its form and birth. The lives of each item read first as simple. After all, their existences trace our own daily needs. In this space however, it is the pedestrian, clean fabrications that beg the question of how they came to be thought of in the ways that we do. To be found anywhere, any way, an item’s significance transforms with its production. McFarland remarries intimacy with utility.  

Sayge Carroll; Other Worlds; installation with projection and sound, ceramic, canvas, leather, muslin, paper, found objects, rock, wood, latex paint; 2021

A memory book of vinyl album covers bursts verdant across the transitional wall: forgotten classics from Nina Simone, Lou Rawls, Harry Belafonte. At the center of an altar is a community of clay, what looks to be a mammoth oven. Hides, drums, pebbles, and rocks all take rest alongside one another. Mahogany and cyan glazes commune. It’s a meeting space, perhaps. One chair is present, its own instrument sitting loyal at right. Suspended above, a camera moves through a land that reveals itself to be committed to neither 3D nor 2D construction. The makings of an archive, if not pure imagination, fall into place. The land on and in screen is traversed easily, a river and brush is the guide. What felt like phantasmal onlookers were passed and nature would resume. On second encounter, the apparitions swell with features and belonging — a pair stands in stoic joy, wedding dress and tuxedo. A boy in a thin-brimmed hat and cream blouse floats in contrapposto. Neither at the point of imagination nor archive but somewhere in between — Sayge Carroll’s Other World fashions just that.  

Brandon Chambers, (L-R:) Your Pods and Mine #1-2, alcohol ink on Yupo paper; Network, alcohol ink on Yupo paper; Spirit of the Time, ceramic, 2021

Brandon Chambers makes sultry out of the formulaic with explorations of structure. Inks come to life in their folly, squares bloom into spores. Stretching across the wall, Chambers’s work spills and returns to itself by way of earthly colors — light velvet reds and rust-born oranges — bridged by inevitable blacks, to mustards and seafoam. An egalitarian assessment of hue whose result is numbing and undoubtedly alive. Sitting across is a haunting of ceramic forms, geometric and organic at the same time. All perhaps descendants of a scaffolded cube, the boxes bow and sway like the bones of wrecked houses. Some are assured while others melt. They all line up at shoulder height for display, even assessment.  

Rini Keagy; Pacaya y Tikal; installation with digital and screen prints on mulberry paper, sand, silica, pebbles, brick; 2021

Further down the wall to blacker backings, Rini Keagy embraces dust. A mound of it calls to mind sandstone and piles up to a point below prints that fade and emerge at once. Triumphant architectures materialize at point perspective. Figures the color and mood of blueprints stare in suit and blouse. Keagy’s world maps dream-like within El Cenote, the 2-channel video that spans a cavernous pit of black walls. A culmination of archival video, document, and sound, El Cenote levitates over impossible natural forms, cenotes plunging into themselves as the same temple-pyramids of their prints waft across the work. Letters and resolutions flutter into being, and darkness — what might be read as emptiness — is all that remains. ◼︎

Hungry For After was on view at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota from April 27 - May 14, 2021. You can view a video walkthrough of the exhibition here.

Banner image: Rini Keagy, El Cenote, 2-channel video, 00:08:30, 2021. All photos by the author or MPLSART.

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