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Working in May essayMichael Hudock:  Traces

Michael Hudock finds inspiration for his artwork in the dumpster.  But it isn’t exactly detritus that interests him.  Instead, he is drawn to the traces of things that have passed through the dumpster.  The deep blue bin near his studio is especially compelling, as artists discard paint that splashes up layer after layer on the dumpster’s rusted sides.  Hudock is intrigued by the residue, the remains, and the effects of wear and tear.

Before becoming a painter, he was a photographer, and in some ways that makes perfect sense.  The photograph is the quintessential emblem of both the trace and time.  Countless commentators have marveled at the photograph’s indexicality, at its capacity to record and reproduce a trace of its subject, as if touched by it.  Others have discussed the photograph’s relation to time, its ability to still a moment, isolating it from the constant flux.  Painting allows Hudock to pursue his love of the index and the trace, but to explore a different sense of time.  Unlike the photograph, which isolates a moment, Hudock’s paintings allow time to accumulate in layers.

Hudock’s first paintings were backgrounds for his photographs.  He had developed a multi-layered photographic process in which he would first paint a background, then cover it in liquid photographic emulsion, and finally print a photograph on top of it.  The painting would almost entirely disappear in the final work, present only as a faint suggestion of color and texture animating the black and white photograph.  One day Hudock created a painting he couldn’t let disappear.  His backgrounds became foregrounds, and the photographer became a painter.

In a recent series, Painting Around Things, Hudock layers paint on large canvases, leaving small areas around the sides that reveal the application of many different colors beneath the nearly monochrome surface.  The effect is of a kitchen wall in an old apartment in which tenant after tenant has painted the room, working around the stove as best they can.  When the appliance is finally removed, it reveals their efforts, the paint each one has applied, and also the places they have missed.

Hudock is fascinated by painting around and also painting over.  Much of his current work is inspired by the urban environment.  Just as the dumpster bears the traces of what has passed through it, walls downtown register the marks people have made on them.  For Hudock, even more interesting than actual graffiti are the marks made by those who would “clean up” the walls by selectively painting over them.  New patches of paint never match their backgrounds exactly, calling attention to the fact that something has been covered over.

Hudock layers up and scrapes down his paintings.  In an on-going series he takes trowels and even sanding belts to his surfaces. The scratches reveal the layers, often twenty or more, that he has built up, and the works oscillate between surface and depth.  Layers of paint register layers of time, and scratched surfaces hint at processes of accumulation.

For Hudock, painting in essence is about mark making.  Unlike photography, painting allows him to amplify his own sense of touch and gesture, and that influences the scale on which he works.  In addition to the large canvases of Painting Around Things, Hudock has been experimenting with very small works made on scraps of canvas and cardboard, the leftovers of his own process.  Less concerned with making a specific image than with the tactility of gestures and materials, he finds that working small allows him to maintain the emotive presence of movement and touch.  It also enables him to explore the remains of his own practice.  Brushes and trowels cleaned on scraps, the remnants of his large paintings become the beginnings of new pieces.  He layers up and scrapes down, and allows the side of the dumpster to emerge and evolve in his studio.


Shawn Michelle Smith
Associate Professor
Visual and Critical Studies
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
October 15, 2010


 

Online Articles

"Harwood features abstraction"
By Wesley Pulkka for the Albuquerque Journal"
Sun, Jan 12, 2014

...Hudock, Leyba and Tolman are among the many third generation AE artists who easily find fertile ground along the untilled edges of abstraction.

Hudock also incorporates palimpsest techniques in his layered paintings that inject a sense of time passing and antiquity into his nonobjective images. Some of his paintings are reminiscent of the old Polaroid photographs that the photographer had to coat with a protective fixative. If done in haste the missed areas would fade leaving behind a streaked image that had an interdimensional quality.

My favorite among Hudock’s offerings is “Helene’s Blues,” one of his most geometric constructivist compositions. The rectilinear forms in a variety of scales create an upbeat rhythm throughout the painting that echoes the push-pull spatial effect sought by New York artist Hans Hoffman.... Read the entire article here


 

Giving Shelter at 516 ARTS
March 1–29, 2008


 

"Memories: Point of Departure: Contemporary Photographic Explorations"
By Steven Robert Allen for the Alibi
July 10 - 16, 2003

 

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