As long as I’m into graphic design and contemporary art, the work of Chicago based artist Cody Hudson is basically surrounding me: it’s on my wall, on tee’s, on skateboards, on album sleeves, in books and even on a few coffee mugs I own. Cody is the creative mastermind and accomplished (graphic) designer behind Struggle Inc., which he uses as an outlet for commercial work and basically exhibited his paintings, drawings and installations all over this planet during the last ten years. And even though he does all this great stuff - and then some more - he would never be in your face about it. This edition of “Black Is Beautiful“ is hosted by Chicago’s finest. It doesn’t only showcase his own talent, he somehow found some time to introduce fellow artists from Chicago to Lodown and its readers as well. Enjoy.
Cody, please tell me a about how you got into graphic design...
Around 1991 I went to a technical school in Milwaukee Wisconsin for two years. It was the kinda place where they teach culinary and mortuary classes along side other trades like printing. I took classes on how to do paste up and set type by hand, use a stat camera, cut rubylith, and such. At that time I was messing with painting and drawings while also working at Piggly Wiggly grocery store so I realized early on I wasn’t going to be able to afford proper art school and tried to learn more of a technical trade instead. Computers came in and most of that work was gone but it was good to learn how things were originally done as it has informed my current design process.
How did the transition into drawing and painting came together?
It’s all somewhat connected. I’ve always been interested in both but for quite a few years really needed to focus more on graphic design as I needed to be able to pay my rent. Now that I’m older I can focus back more on drawing and painting as well.
What I always admired about your work is that everything seems (or feels) to be rather organic, as if it simply follows its own rules and flow... nothing feels forced, really.
A lot of the work I do is not overly planned out ahead of time so it tends to have a loose feel to. I rarely start out to do a painting with a painting in mind, I like to just let it happen and be influenced by the materials I have at hand. I really enjoy the actual act of painting or making sculpture and at times the work is more about the process than the final project for me.
You’ve worked for a lot for different brands in the past, but you seem to have a particularly close connection to Andy Mueller, right?
Andy and I have a lot of friends in common, we are both fathers, come from similar background influences so there is a good loose bond there. I do some work for Quiet Life now and then, not nearly as much as do for a few other brands I’m closer to... but with Andy it’s more of a friend vibe then a business deal.
I think so far you’ve mainly stayed in different places on the Eastcoast, right? Was moving towards California never an option for you, even though a lot of the industry you’ve worked for has their offices established over there?
I’ve spent most of my time in Midwest since I was born here but have moved around and spent time in Vermont, New Jersey, and Miami. I like California and have been trying to spend some of the winter there the last few years... but I feel more connected to the people of the Midwest. Also, really, I think someone needs to stick around here, if everyone moved to NY or LA it would leave a bit of a hole here.
A rather significant attribute your catalog is carrying is that you always seem to work in complex phases... sometimes you just work with different colors, sometimes the material is the most important factor, sometimes I just see your kind of trademark doodles for a certain period of time. Is there a rational mark for you, which makes you close a particular artistic chapter?
My work goes in phases but it’s not really planned that way. I tend to work through a style until I feel I’ve got it figured out, then slowly move on. I was doing a lot of very loose drawings twelve years ago then moved on... and found myself going back to them recently and getting really into them again. I think you sometimes need some time away from something to either figure out if you really like it and if it’s worth revisiting.
Very often your work is described/connected to concepts like Modernism or Deconstructionism... how would you describe your art in your own words? Do you think about concepts before or is it mainly about simply trusting your impulses?
Since I don’t come from an academic art background all of those concepts were foreign to me and not something I really knew much about. But after years and years of working, collecting old art books and slowly learning more about the world, I start to lean towards certain connections with the past that I think my work aligns with. So the work was always free form in my head but I’m now more able to connect it with movements of the past that influenced it in some ways.
Lately, you seem to enjoy working and sculpting found objects a lot... please tell me a bit about how this passion came together?
I have a great time making sculptures. They are big and heavy and fun to push around. I can find all the needed materials for them in scrap bins. It’s really about as far from working at my desk as I can get and I enjoy that process.
You did quite a few collaborations in the past... I remember projects with Evan Hecox and Maya Hayuk for example. What’s the main criteria for you to choose to work with certain people?
I’m really not an artist who works great in collaborative situation, as sometimes I just want something to look a certain way, and working collaboratively you have to give that up. So I tend to only collaborate with people that are my friends or I feel a connection to at the time. They don’t always work out but when it does it can be magical.
You’ve moved back to Chicago... what was the main reason for that step? And please tell me a bit about the “creative scene“ in Chi-town, since it unjustly always seems to be in New York’s shadow.
I was born an hour north of Chicago so the Midwest has always been close to home for me. I would always move back here between other moves to help me figure my shit out. Now that I’m older I’m a little tired of moving and want to just stay here and raise my family. The scene here is good, there are lots of talented artists, designers, musicians, and chefs doing great work here. In the art world if you are not in LA or NY it’s going to seem like a shadow but for me that’s what makes it interesting.
How is Struggle Inc. doing these days? Do you use this addresser strictly for more commercial jobs?
Struggle inc is good. We stay busy doing the commercial side of things in the studio. I like to keep the separate names for separate projects, so anything more client based and more of a design job ends up being a Struggle Inc project where my sculpture and paintings stay as more of a personal project and are connected to my government name.
And as a final question: what are the cards holding for Mr. Hudson in 2014... what are you working on right now?
Outside of art and design I’m also involved in a company called Land and Sea Dept that does restaurant and bar design and management. We recently open up our second project called “Parson’s Chicken and Fish“. In the studio I’m working on a few big painting commissions for the year as well as some new sculptures. With Struggle inc I’ve been working closely with Sixpack France on a small collection called “Dead Hommes“, also I’ve been doing some misc projects for Nike, Stussy and Slash snowboards.