PRINT September 2014



Hudson, drawn by Charles Ray, 2014.

HUDSON, who legally used only Hudson as his full name, died of natural causes at home in New York on February 10, 2014. In the weeks following his death, several prominent obituaries commemorated his unique persona and artistic vision as a gallerist. Hudson was a performance artist in the late 1970s and early ’80s and received his MFA from the University of Cincinnati in 1977. He founded his gallery in 1984. The gallery was named Feature and was originally located in Chicago. In 1988, Hudson moved Feature to New York. Over the years, the gallery had several locations in Manhattan, and in 1994 it was relaunched as Feature Inc. Its last location was at 131 Allen Street.

In an age when success is equated with wealth and expansion, Hudson set a different example. He built a viable business that concentrated on showing art he felt was interesting and important for us to see. Hudson was successful in the deepest sense. When you viewed art at Feature, you viewed work that mattered to Hudson in an essential way. He used his intuition and eye consistently and with a degree of trust that inspired us to understand that real connoisseurship has little to do with privilege or class.

Hudson approached art not from taste or preference but from aesthetic judgment. This sounds simple, but it isn’t, because his engagement with artwork was a dynamic, ongoing, and challenging process. He had confidence in his ability to see what he recognized as interesting art. Artists working with him felt this and found that the success of an exhibition at Feature had less to do with sales than with the work’s ability to stand on its own and find its location in the art world’s arena. It was incredibly valuable for artists and also collectors and viewers to find courage to create a relationship to what they made, looked at, or collected. Hudson’s success is measured in the intellectual and artistic wealth he gave to others.

Hudson’s complexity was both internal and external. He was very private yet public. He sat in his gallery at the front desk. Every day. If you called, he was often the man who answered the phone. You had a great sense that he not only ran his gallery but that it was he who looked, in the deepest way, at the art he showed. It was he who learned and grew with what was on his walls and exhibited in his space. I am sure those closest to him could separate the gallery from the man, but there was a relationship between the two that only develops when a person is present to what they do. It’s easy to say that his interest was not commercial, but I think when we consider his life and define his gallery and interests as “alternative” we simplify a complex man. His contribution was mainstream.

Charles Ray is an artist based in Los Angeles.