Hudson, the one-named art dealer whose New York gallery Feature Inc. re-defined the role of the dealer and set new standards of innovation and experimentation in the display of contemporary art, died suddenly on Feb. 9 of natural causes in his apartment, at age 63. He was a mentor to other gallerists and a beloved champion of the artists he showed. “It is the responsibility of the galleries to challenge and broaden the market, not to acquiesce to it,” he said in an interview with the artist Dike Blair in 2004. “One goes to art for expansion, striving, and perhaps for some experience of an Other. I’m rather opposed to art being made or presented to further satisfy more of the same.”
Hudson made himself accessible to his public-manning the gallery’s front desk rather than relegating that task to an assistant and accepting unsolicited materials from artists. Yet he was an intensely private individual, and even those closest to him considered him an enigmatic figure. He earned an MFA in painting from the University of Cincinnati in 1977 and later worked as a dancer and performance artist. In Chicago, Hudson was an arts administrator in the non-profit performance sector before opening his own gallery, Feature, in that city in 1984 (it was later called Feature Inc.).
Arriving in New York four years later, Feature quickly became a fixture in the city’s cutting-edge gallery scene, moving over the years to various spaces in SoHo, Chelsea and the Lower East Side, until landing at its current location at 131 Allen Street in late 2009. Though geographically peripatetic, Feature’s anchor was its rigorous re-envisioning of the standard gallery solo show; Hudson favored instead showing two or three artists’ work concurrently and in counterpoint, the better to highlight the unique characteristics of each. His taste was catholic and inscrutable, including but not limited to: glittering rhinestone geometries sewn onto denim (Evie Falci); cast resin sculptures of domestic objects (Nathaniel Robinson); optically dense, hard-edged abstract paintings in unmodulated acrylic (Doug Melini); nude, homoerotic figure studies in graphite (Tom of Finland); and-as a nod to the impermanence of life-a mandala made of Lego blocks by Brooklyn-based artist Kylin that was disassembled by viewers in a single day.
“He always surprised me,” said artist Lisa Beck, who has shown with Feature since 1989. “In a sense the whole gallery was an artwork. He reveled in multiplicity and he encouraged me to do the same. ‘You should finish things, but never complete them,’ he said to me. I took that to mean that even if you come to the end of a sentence, it doesn’t mean that you’ve said everything you’ll ever have to say. An artwork is a single statement, but not your only one. It’s a point you make on a field of points, and that field is infinite.”