Los Angeles

Robert Hudson

Nicholas Wilder Gallery

The inventions of Constructivism have infiltrated American sculpture over the last several years in so many undisguised usages that it is seldom necessary even to mention their presence. But in the case of Robert Hudson’s new sculptures, six of which are at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery, the Constructivist ethos has crept in to a degree which makes the analogy central. Actually it is less the extent of Hudson’s use of Constructivist ideas than the special way in which he uses them in combination with indigenous idioms which gives his work its specific character of historical eclecticism. Hudson shows two large works (Twisted Hip, 7’ x 15’, and Protractor, about 12 feet long), and four smaller ones which sit on bases (4 x 4, Discoflex, Yellow Groove and Ghost of a Chance). All the works deal in part with marking out spaces and volumes; Discoflex (black, white and clear plastic), immediately recalls the spiraling or arcing containment of space in the sculptures of Naum Gabo, Antoine Pevsner and Boccioni. The others point less specifically to particular sources, but all of them, and especially the two large ones, give the distinct impression that they are parodying themselves. The latter are elaborate contraptions, conspicuously embracing every estheticized structural principle (or cliché), from suspension to tension to stress, and a wide assortment of industrial surfaces and materials, from aluminum to steel to translucent metallic coatings. The basis for satire encompasses the Constructivist esthetic in its broadest sense, which includes not only its original Russian manifestations but the later Bauhaus, Futurist, Cubist and present-day offshoots. Hudson has been viewed chiefly in the context of the San Francisco funk. back ground from which he comes, and, more recently, his work has been characterized as a sort of exotic Expressionism, and then analyzed in terms of its spatial and optical properties. All these things, and more, are relevant. But beyond their “purely formal” attributes, Hudson’s sculptures are transcendingly satirical, and nearly always successful sheerly by virtue of their tremendous wit and humor. The one non literary element in these works that has not been emphasized, and which is one of the most interesting things about them, is their abstract rhythmical use of angular dissonance and jarring counterpoint; in this respect they more nearly approach certain current developments in avant-garde music than any other contemporary body of sculpture that comes to mind.

Jane Livingston