John Udvardy

Organized by Lasse Antonsen at University Art Gallery, University of Massachusetts,  Dartmouth, November – December, 1987

(Originally published in the exhibition brochure, November 1987)

John Udvardy told me that he started out as a painter, an abstract expressionist, but felt increasingly confined by the flatness of a canvas.  He began edging his way off the wall, first by cutting and shaping the canvas, then by adding found objects to its surface.  One day about fourteen years ago, he made a whole piece with the things he found, and it felt magical to him.  That’s the way he has worked ever since.

There’s still a painterly richness of color in his work, in the way he puts together different tones of wood  — red maple, oak, pine, and a  painterly feeling for texture in surfaces that are rough, or smooth, or marked by a beaver’s cuts and chews.

Udvardy begins a piece of sculpture by drawing in his studio.  Then he goes outside, to search for the shapes and colors and textures that he needs to make the sculpture happen.  He talks of going out “into the field” to look for materials, and it’s clear that for him the field of action is no longer a canvas in a studio, but a real field and a real forest. He takes long walks in the woods or by the sea, looking for the right sticks and branches will become the right marks, finding them and cutting them and bringing them back to the studio.  There he trims the branches, notches them, glues and joins them together. Then he ties and wraps them into place, looking for the forms, searching for the rhythms, and finally finding the structures that transform sticks and stones into a work of art.

Udvardy sees the aesthetic possibilities in an old whittled paddle or a forked birch branch, and he knows how to make a curve from a green sapling.  But most of all, he brings to his materials a feeling that every mark matters:  every stick, every thread, every shell, every bone.

by Rebecca Nemser for

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