Hudson 1950 – 2014
Feature Inc. mourns the passing of Hudson, its founder and mainstay for almost 30 years, who died unexpectedly in his New York apartment on February 10th. He was 63.
Hudson—he used just that one name—was an artists' dealer, a stalwart and uncompromising champion of the artists he believed in. Unlike many gallerists of his generation, he was neither impressed not tempted by grandiose aspirations, and, over the years, his unpretentious gallery spaces exhibited a broad spectrum of aesthetic experiences. As he remarked in 2010: "All around the country—all over the world—there were pockets of interesting things that I wanted people to enjoy, or at least be aware of. It seemed more important to stay open to the breadth of contemporary art than to settle on the obvious." The result was that, without seeming to try, Hudson built not an empire but a community of students, artists, critics, curators, and art lovers who respected his independence and were educated by his eye.
Hudson was born in 1950, and grew up in West Haven, Conn. He graduated from Southern Connecticut State College, majoring in art education, with a minor in fine arts. In the early 70's, he moved to Cincinnati, where he studied contemporary dance and earned an MFA from the University of Cincinnati. While still in school, he performed with Contemporary Dance Theater and the Judy Gregg Dance Company, and was asked to join several New York dance theater troupes. But a growing interest in the more multidisciplinary aspects of performance led him to decline these offers, and a ruptured disc sealed the matter. In the late 70's, he developed a series of solo performance-art works for himself, which he staged at venues across the Midwest: one of these, The Greek and French Arts, an art history porno cooking lesson in the style of romance and idealism premiered at the Allen Art Museum at Oberlin College as part of its "Young Americans" exhibition in 1981. (He would continue to perform, albeit with decreasing regularity, until 1992.) Still in Cincinnati, Hudson entered the business side of the art world by managing a dance company and becoming a member of the artist organization C.A.G.E. ( Cincinnati Artists Group Effort). In 1981 he moved to Chicago to take a position at Randolph Street Gallery, where he organized a performance programthat featured Jack Smith and Karen Finley, among others. Three years later, feeling constrained by peer-panel reviews and the policing of content he encountered in artist-run organizations, he scraped togehter the money to start an art gallery.
The first Feature opened its doors in Chicago on April Fool's Day, 1984, with a show of Richard Prince's appropriated fashion photographs. From its inception, Hudson gave early exposure to a remarkable number of artists who have since become prominent figures in contemporary art. In addition to Prince—Troy Brauntuch, Sarah Charlesworth, Jim Iserman, Larry Johnson, Mike Kelley, Jeff Koons, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Raymond Pettibon, Charles Ray, Kay Rosen, Jim Shaw, Haim Steinbach and B. Wurtz all showed work at Feature between 1984 and 1988, when the gallery moved to New York. In the following years, at a series of locations from Soho to Chelsea to the Lower East Side, Hudson continued to explore the new and unknown—in 2012 and 2013, for example, he showed promising younger artists (Jared Buckhiester; Nathaniel Robinson) and under–recognized older ones (Kinke Kooi; Bobbie Oliver)—while also exhibiting Lisa Beck, Richard Bloes, Judy Linn and David Shaw, all of whom he represented for decades.
To some an austere figure, with his buzzed head and dancer's body, Hudson was, at the same time, eminently approachable. In each of Feature's iterations, his desk was out in the open, and he politely greeted all comers. Once, when asked how he looked at art, he replied: "The first thing is to be quiet. I drop my agenda or expectations, and listen. Then, I soften my gaze. The eyes are agressive, and once you realize they are out there hunting, you can learn to tune them down, and let what is out there come to you. The body knows things way before the brain does... Art is primarily about the development of consciousness, not the development of an object. The object is just a catalyst."
— Steel Stillman
Funeral arrangements are private.