Save the Last Dance: MFA Thesis Exhibition
205 Hudson Gallery, by appointment
November 28 through December 12, 2020
By DANA NOTINE, JUNE SCALIA, ELIANA BLECHMAN, and JONAS ALBRO, December 2020
Save the Last Dance is the fourth and final Hunter MFA thesis exhibition of 2020. After a seven month delay, the exhibition provides viewers with a finale so grand, the years' turmoil seems to melt away. The show features works by Kristina Schmidt, Kathleen Granados, Taylor Laufersweiler, Amra Causevic, and Eric Lotzer. Drawings by Eric Lotzer (b. 1987) explore the uncomfortable, yet attractive, aspects of our primal sexual behavior by merging personal experience with mythical and religious reference. Lotzer's classical treatment of anatomy recalls the mastery of Renaissance draftsman Albrecht Dürer through the veil of queer eroticism. The intimate graphite drawings portray an erotic metamorphosis within a queer forest fantasy where animalistic beings thrive, naked and unafraid.
Two wheels can set you free. Anyone who’s ever ridden a bike through New York City knows what I mean. That sense of autonomy, that playful middle finger to an unreliable MTA, a cherished sliver of control in a city of volatility. Most days, Kristina Schmidt (b. 1982) rides her bike to her studio in Tribeca. Once she dismounts, everything she’s gained on that journey-- the physical rush, the gratitude for explorative mobility, the sense of herself as part of a city of millions-- makes its way into her studio practice.
These elements playout on the surface of her rectangular canvases, compositions in which the quality of line matches the boldness of her colors. As our eyes take in the energetic display, we recognize Kristina as the reoccurring figure, seemingly jumping between canvases, often accompanied by famous works of art. In one the artist polishes an Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven readymade, in another, she naps at the base of the ancient Laocoon group. In a sense, she’s laid claim to a slice of the canonical art history cake, but not without raising questions of ownership, narrative, subjectivity and play.
Her three-dimensional work evokes a relentless effort, though one that suggests ambivalence between “failure” and “success.” Seemingly interminable chains of individual clay-fired links dangle from the ceiling, while an inverted Tetris projection loops on a hanging cardboard box nearby; the familiar shapes fall upward, slightly obscured by the crystallized sugar surface. In another work, a hologram Schmidt tumbles through a dark screen, jumping like a character in an arcade game, moving through space but never able to advance beyond the frame. In these works, we see the artist play, jump, and throw herself into the artistic practice, boldly embracing the relentless labor of creation.
Kathleen Granados (b. 1986) explores memory, identity, absence, and inheritance through the legacies of craft, storytelling, and ritual. She examines the tensions embedded in domestic spaces, drawing on her multicultural upbringing to consider the public versus private experience of the home. Her work incorporates textiles, photographs, and items from her childhood house, current apartment, and partner’s family to create imprints and residues of heirlooms and personal objects. In her installations, Granados plays with the shifting role of the home as a place that provides comfort, but can also cultivate sorrow and loss. In Chamber, Granados presents a floral printed, cloth-covered domestic environment. The delicate floral pattern references the calico fabric used throughout her childhood in her mother’s quilting, as well as the material popularly used in 19th century American pioneer garments. Often favored for its functional ability to conceal stains, calico also alludes to the mythos surrounding American expansion. Granados disperses cloth-covered objects in the same print and fabric molds of furniture and doors throughout the space. Each element acts as a signifier of the home while its floral wrapping obscures the viewer’s access to it, creating residues of a household. Including both draped and imprinted textile objects, Granados invites the viewer to question the solidity and physical presence of their surroundings, imbuing the installation with an uncertainty about the security of the home.
Presenting the traditional aesthetics of domesticity imbued with the materials and patterns of the artist’s upbringing, Granados builds a space where past and present coalesce and where memory stirs just beneath the surface. Granados’ performance Breathing Signal further delves into the tensions embedded in the home. Sitting in a partially cloth-wrapped chair taken from her mother’s house, Granados wears a tactical throat microphone and plays a small metal teakettle. The microphone, generally used for surveillance, amplifies whispered or otherwise hushed sounds. As Granados plays the kettle, the mic amplifies the whistling noises she makes, along with her intermittent belabored breath and swallowing. The whistle of the kettle, a constant presence in Granados’ childhood home, exists as a reminder of warm comfort as well as an alarm that must be attended to immediately, or as Granados describes it, “an everyday scream.”
Taylor Laufersweiler (b. 1994) makes work that transcends typical boundaries of two and three dimensional art. Paintings mimic architecture, and his strong, defined line organizes and confuses the space. Further complicating our navigation of the pictorial space are incongruous color choices and intrusive dimensional elements, further impeding our ability to make sense of these images. Utilizing architecture as a starting point, doors, staircases, and other points of spatial transition become visual references to deeper transformations. For Laufersweiler, these painted transformations are about queering space. He plays with scale, orientation, spatial understanding, and form; contradictions lead to vulnerability, and as your eyes move around them these compositions arise and then collapse. This experience is not unlike the experience of being othered in society as a queer person. Unexpected boundaries appear at the last moment, some experiences are visible but not accessible. Laufersweiler asks the viewer to attempt to understand elements of what it is like to be marginalized; to reckon with restrictions on freedom made physical. As such, the viewer must become comfortable with continually reorienting their gaze, as opposed to being stable. The seeming chaos of the painting’s compositions feed into how the viewer navigates them, and further conveys the discomfort of being limited by constant reorientation, or code-switching. However, the play between visual expectation and the actual composition is hardly chaotic; it is an account of real, lived experience.
Amra Causevic (b. 1984) creates moments of communal utopia through spatial intervention and the creation of personal worlds. Whether it be through the presentation of thoughtfully curated found-objects (displayed museologically, with accompanying audio and identification labels) or a physically imposing mobile arch of pulpified egg cartons and music boxes, Causevic joyfully creates her own utopian universe through a unique sense of whimsy and criticality. Within her practice, viewers are invited to play, communicate, and contemplate in equal measure.
Within Archway and Model, the artist uses the physical space of the gallery to visualize fantasies of collective architecture. Within her presentation of Model, Causevic envisions a home through which her entire community may live together, disregarding the expectations and responsibilities of banal realities and obligations. Archway reimagines the tradition of the Triumphal Arch, considering the various intentions behind erecting the historic design and upending the permanence of a monument by adding wheels to the structure. Through the sculpting of disintegrated egg cartons, the artist uses paper pulp to render earthly textures of stone-like consistency. Additionally, the artist collected the egg cartons from her local bodega- a location which bears a strong association with immigration. Littered within the topography of the arch are small levers, coming from music boxes buried within the archways surface. These levers, like so much of Causevic’s practice, offer opportunity for participation. When all the music boxes are wound together, a cacophony of familiar melodies merge, creating an auditory symphony of discordant memory.
The Artists of Save the Last Dance are also featured in Hauser & Wirth’s online presentation of Hunter College 2020 MFA Spotlight. WM
(from left to right)
Text on Kathleen Granados by Eliana Blechman. Eliana Blechman is a curator and art historian based in Brooklyn, NY.
Text on Kristina Schmidt by June Scalia. June Scalia is an art historian & writer specializing in 20th century sculpture.
Text on Taylor Laufersweiler by Jonas Albro. Jonas Albro is a historian, critic, and curator based in Brooklyn.
Intro and text on Amra Causevic by Dana Notine. Dana Notine is an art historian and curator based in Brooklyn, NY.view all articles from this author