October 13 – November 23, 2011
The University Art Gallery is pleased to present a selection of work by John Udvardy, twenty-four years after first exhibiting a selection of his work in 1987. At that time the University Art Gallery was located on the main campus in North Dartmouth, inside the stark, Brutalist 1960s architecture of Paul Rudolph. The University Art Gallery is now located in the renovated, 1917, Star Store department store in downtown New Bedford, Massachusetts.
The work we featured in 1987 was largely made of natural branches and objects. At that time, John Udvardy’s work provided an imaginative and nomadic playfulness to the harsh architectural elegance of Paul Rudolph.
The exhibition we feature now shows a much wider range of approaches by John Udvardy. The elegant, ornate, historicizing Star Store building provides an equally appropriate staging for his work, with its much wider range of themes of found and manufactured objects, suffused by layers of history.
In 1987, the Boston Globe art critic, Rebecca Nemser, wrote an essay on John Udvardy’s work for the publication that accompanied the exhibition. This time we feature an extensive interview in which the artist explores his early, formative, years, and looks back at his career, influences, and ways of working.
John Udvardy’s story provides a glimpse into the extraordinary life of a first generation American of Hungarian descent. It is the story of how determination and hard work can blend and become illuminated by a desire to pursue the path of art, with its beauty and challenges. His life is a tale of how imagination and a social reality, that by now appear almost quaint, illuminate the American reality.
The work of John Udvardy belongs within the framework of modernism. His imagination is rooted in Cubism, with its playful notions of multiple viewpoints, and in Collage with its everyday reality, as introduced by Picasso and Braque.
That period in the history of art made room for playfulness, for conversation, for friendship, and for discussions over café tables. Reality was forever altered. A sculpture was no longer a sculpture, and a painting no longer a painting. Art and life had merged in ways that John Udvardy has continued to pursue.
Once an object from real life entered into a dialog with the illusion created by the artist, profound new levels of stories and histories could merge. Nostalgia, dreams, longing, and desire, could now unfold in ways that had never happened before.
In John Udvardy’s work, we enter into an imaginative world that never lost sight of the wonder of the creative process and the wonder of discovery, which is the reason we, as an homage, feature Jacque Prevert’s famous poem “To Paint a Bird’s Portrait” in this catalog, in a recent translation by Jacqueline Michaud.
Lasse Antonsen, Curator