New York

Gary Hudson

Reese Palley Gallery

For Gary Hudson, more is not more but visual obfuscation. There is so much going on in his canvases, it ’s hard to see what is really happening. The major visual problem in these paintings is the relationship , or lack of it, between large floating rectangular shapes and the heavily textured areas that surround them. The discontinuity between texture and forms is exacerbated rather than alleviated by sprayed halos around the forms that disengage them even further from their surroundings, allowing them to float freely out in front of the canvas surface.

These are truly schizophrenic paintings. The textured areas are fully as important and in fact more interesting than the spatial play of the rectangular shapes, but the visually stronger activity of the rectangles obscures this other aspect of the canvases almost completely. The textured areas are created by a complex process of placing crumpled fabric on a ground color, pouring acrylic over it, allowing the paint to soak through to the canvas and dry, and then ripping off the fabric. This is done repeatedly until semitransparent layers of paint are built up and then fractured when the cloth is ripped away.

Just as the rectangles’ harsh, whitened, neon Las Vegas color distracts from the texture, the texture negates the spatial play of the shapes, initially because it does not radiate light as they do. In addition, the texture fills all the space around the shapes so completely that they cannot function in that space. They cannot define levels but are cut off from the canvas space and from the texture as well. There is actually no negative space in Hudson’s paintings for the rectangles to control. He has used two positive, space-defining elements, the forms and the texture in a way that results in mutual negation. Sometimes through a coincidence of scale of shapes and texture and of color, the two elements do seem to exist in the same or almost the same space. They relate to each other then, but this happens rarely. The only work in the show that comes close to achieving visual parity between its two warring factions is Alvin’s Win. Here, the coloristically complex halos around the rectangles help to integrate them with their textural milieu by picking up colors that appear in the textured areas. Here as well, however, the shapes say no, you can’t have the pleasures of the texture, and bar entry to it.

The rectangular shapes appear to represent an effort on the artist’s part to toughen his paintings, much as Brandt’s lines are an effort to toughen hers—to keep them from becoming too easy, too sensual, too romantic. But they only serve to create problems. It would be a relief if this artist would ease off and give the viewer a chance to enjoy all the things he can do in a way that is not so compressed as to make understanding and visual appreciation impossible.

Kasha Linville