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Robert Hudson
Recent Sculpture
April 12-May 10, 2003
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“Duchampian in his impishness, Robert Hudson is committed to the improbable, the incongruous, the visually absurd; he is an art historical jester, whose playful good humor exhibits none of the nihilism implicit in Dada.  During the mid-1960s, while the East Coast art community wrestled with the dialectics of objecthood, perception, and information, Hudson was in San Francisco building painted sculptures – contraptions, really – that looked like machines gone beserk.  His Fat Gnat of 1964 resembled an outsized Mix-Master with a tongue, while Double Time of the following year was equally Picabian, with the added confusion of trompe l’oeil painted corners, grooves, and holes.  Hudson seemingly wanted to subvert not the machine, and certainly not painting or sculpture, but an aesthetic that was built on rational critical discourse and that seemed frequently to be an exercise in some polemic or other.  He responded with rambunctious objects that were a challenge to every canon of good taste.

His current paintings continue the witty irreverence of his sculpture.  These paintings are even more omnivorously eclectic than the constructions of Rossi, Schirm, and MacConnel.  The behemoth Eye-Beam, for instance, is a dazzling tour de force that brings together calligraphy, color-field painting, hard-edge geometry, monochrome pattern, color scales, illusionistic space, arabesques, sensuous texture, and a multiplicity of other elements.  In other works, figurative representation may double as abstract design, while photographs, postcards, and stamps may be collaged on the surface.  His paintings are fields for nearly any visual caprice.”

-Howard Fox
Directions, Hirshhorn Museum 1979

“It may be a bit much to call Hudson and Richard Shaw the Picasso and Braque of West Coast ceramics (they were relative latecomers to the field, for one thing), but the symbiotic intensity and fertility of their collaboration circa 1972 make the comparison attractive.  Using slip-molding, the disreputable medium of plaster carnival trophies, to produce vessels uniting found and invented, natural and geometric shapes – the ensembles chalkily glazed with colors and designs including near trompe-l’oeil and decorative pattern – these two brought the contemporary ceramic object into its own on a level and with a satisfying completeness unmatched by anybody else.  It could only have happened on the West Coast; nowhere else in America recently has existed the cultural permission to invest serious energies in such a “minor” art form.  But even in California’s 20-year history of avant-garde clayworks I wonder how many pieces, judged by the standard of Hudson and Shaw, seem primarily or even necessarily to be ceramic objects, rather than extensions into the medium of generalized art-intentions.  The achievement of Hudson and Shaw was to perceive the limitation of the ceramic object as a thing of, if not domestic function, domestic scale and feeling, and to realize within that limitation a maximum creative freedom.  There is a kind of dreamlike abstract logic to these works, a blend of nonchalance and inevitability that can best be understood, I believe, in terms of a radical coming-to-grips with the medium.”

-Peter Schjeldahl
Robert Hudson, Moore College of Art Gallery, Philadelphia,1977