Jonald Dudd installation view

photograph courtesy of Jonald Dudd

Jonald Dudd @ The Parlour

by Stephen Eakin

August 1st, 2016

The braintrust of Jonald Dudd–Lydia Cambron, Ben Garthus, and Chris Held–are on their second year, and third exhibition with the project. The title is a clear twisting up of the famous minimalist sculptor Donald Judd’s name, and it echoes the kind of pot-stirring that this group implements in their curating practice. All three are a mixture of designer and artist, with varied interests and training in both areas. The shows they’ve had thus far have distilled their tastes. What is most interesting about the Dudd crew’s agenda is that I’m not convinced they care about illuminating, redrawing, or even talking about the imaginary lines between design and art. They seem more focused on blurring or completely erasing such distinctions–if not just suggesting that it’s all a bunch of bullshit. If anything, I end up asking myself this: if something is good to look at, who cares what it is?


The most humorous parts of the curators personalities appear in the promotion of their exhibitions–something most artists and galleries are casually concerned with at best. They take the advertising seriously and are thorough with it, though they aren’t necessarily paying out for billboards or Artforum ads (because we don’t need more of either of those). I hope that in ten years they have a retrospective of their Instagram fliers and Facebook invites including funny GIFs, scrolling marshmallow peeps, hot dogs suggestively penetrating Donald Judd sculptures, and short videos that play like vintage credits from Night Court.  This is well suited to the age of irony, where digital sarcasm and aloofness reign supreme and are quick and dirty ways to garner attention in an absurd world. However, it also makes light of the previously mentioned division between art and design, takes none of it seriously, and primes the audience to receive the content of the exhibitions. This may well be my favorite aspect of Jonald Dudd.

Jonald Dudd installation view

photograph courtesy of Jonald Dudd

A cursory glance puts the majority of these things in the design category. It’s always hard for me to articulate exactly why that is because there is so much common ground, but generally there are a lot of furniture and vessel forms. Yes anything can be art, but the functional aspects puts most of them in the design category quickly.


The things that ring out as artworks stump their sense of function, for instance April Childers’ Sometimes, when you're wearing a hat, it's like you have something on your head. I know her work (and am a fan), and her objects definitely resonate in an Oldenburg sort of way; familiar things with scale shifts that make them impractical. Despite it seeming too dumb to have a function, there is in fact a light inside and it therefore works as a lamp.


FPOAFM is a ceramics oriented nomadic arts/crafts collective (I highly recommend visiting their website). Ceramics is a medium that has its own beefs with art, design, the functional, and the sculptural. Here they have the sloppiest, least "designy" moments with their lumpy clay shapes and vessels that slowly leak mystery goo. Ben Godward’s keg sculpture takes the gooey factor up a few more degrees, hiding out in the backyard and serving beer for the opening. Unstable Social Situation reminds me of a drunk frat party where brightly colored candy was fed to the pledges before they threw it up in a vat of resin and turned it upside down to use as a table. Patrick Carmody’s piece Quilt lives on the wall like an artwork, but is suspiciously "designy", making me suspect he sits on the fence between art and design. This is not say it isn’t a beautiful object, but in the context of the show it clearly follows a theme. Following themes too closely doesn’t really force the viewers into critical thought, and for viewers like me just feels to easy.

Jonald Dudd installation view

photograph courtesy of Jonald Dudd

The Dudds are good at staging their collections of curated objects. The objects from LIGHHT certainly activate the space. Light objects, which are clearly made by artists, are installed as functional light sources. When you see neon in an art gallery, it’s the artwork, and is the light source in a cursory sense. These lights are hung over the pedestal, taking the place of prescribed track lighting. Last year’s show saw a retail pegboard for hanging the selected works; this year it was a faux-brick laminated pedestal. Both walk the line between kitschy and relevant (not that those things are inherently at odds). Most gallerists and curators tend to rely on the assumed neutrality of white walls for their shows, leaving the redesigning of the space to the occasional installation artist, or sometimes just painting the wall a different color. I’m sure most curators are fearful of having a voice that overpowers the artwork. Jonald Dudd is good at using that voice, but not so loudly you can’t see the works themselves.


Nice Condo is the brainchild of Chris Held and Lydia Cambron. They makes some nice stuff for a condo. And I actually appreciate the curators placing their own work in the show, even though their inclusion might still be an art world faux pas. The idea that curators shouldn’t do it stems from whatever sense of professionalism the art world has developed since academia and MFAs needed to legitimize a standard set of practices for college review boards. Really, at this point if you’re an artist-curator and your work fits, it probably really fits. Not to mention, these guys and many other artists work pro-bono with no true guarantee of sales (even the majority of even the biggest blue chip galleries are underwater most of the time). So why not? Put yourself in the show! You’re probably busting your ass to pay off loan debt while you get continually rejected by some higher class of artists and curators anyway. It’s not like you’re impressing anyone with your politeness. If you’re out in Brooklyn to sew your own oats, you might as well sew them your way.

Ben Godward, Unstable Social Situation

mixed media on beer keg

photograph courtesy of Jonald Dudd

I meet the occasional painter who criticizes artworks that are too "designy", or the designer that chuckles when you tell them you’re an artist, like we’re all in a race and they took some kind of shortcut and you chose the long way because you are stupid. The art world certainly likes to talk at length about what art is and whether or not something is art, as if there is a gatekeeper and by gaining entry you get to be part of some kind of creative chapter of MENSA. However, I don’t think I am alone in being completely bored with and over that conversation–or at least in having a chip on my shoulder about it.


I’m not sure if the design world has an equivalent qualifier; I don’t spend much time in that end of the pool. My guess would be that designers ask a lot of questions about the usefulness or practicality of an object, and how aesthetics interact. What I like most about Jonald Dudd is that it forgoes most of this posturing and lets the viewer posit more directly what makes an object interesting. Most of the discussion around these topics often fails to involve this fundamental train of thought, the assumption being that what makes something good is so difficult (or maybe so simple) that it is moot.

Patrick Carmody, Quilt

photograph courtesy of Jonald Dudd

Jonald Dudd has now exhibited in three locations: City Bird Gallery at 191 Henry street, an empty artist’s studio on North 6th Street, and most recently at The Parlour Bushwick. My biggest problem with Jonald Dudd thus far is that these three locations are art spaces. In fairness, The Parlour is a bit unusual because it is an unaltered domestic space with a fireplace and plaster walls that one can’t drill into. But for the most part, these shows have stayed on the home turf of artists. Maybe this shouldn’t matter, but I am ready to see Jonald Dudd exhibit within the design world. The idea is theirs to figure out. As it’s only been two years, I suspect we will see that pendulum swing a different way at some point.


All of the objects in Jonald Dudd are good objects. I love them. Some are conceptual and others are pretty. The majority blur boundaries, which is where the best art is often produced. There are some that ask serious questions, some that are just good to look at, and some that are hilarious. It is also nice to see a little less abstract painting, especially in Bushwick. I highly recommend keeping tabs on Lydia Cambron, Ben Garthus, and Chris Held because Jonald Dudd is really, really good.

Jonald Dudd installation view

photograph courtesy of Jonald Dudd

Stephen Eakin is an artist in Brooklyn and contributes to Painting Is Dead. His work was recently included in Land After Time at E. Tay gallery.

Jonald Dudd 2016

June 3, 2016 - July 22, 2016


The Parlour Bushwick

791 Bushwick Ave

Brooklyn, NY 11221



Sunday from 12 – 6 pm and by appointment

(718) 360-3218

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