John Fudge (b. 1940, d. 1999) was a long time fixture in the Colorado art scene, whose heavy influence on the region began in Boulder in the late ’50s, where he was a BFA student, through his untimely death in 1999. He was involved with several of the most significant efforts taken by Colorado artists at that time, including Drop City, Criss Cross, and the founding of Spark Gallery.As a professor of art at CU Boulder and CU Denver for decades, he left an indelible mark on his art students. John Fudge was very much an artist of his era, borrowing pop themes and assembling them into works that fall somewhere between contemporary gothic and cartoon modern. His work has been collected by such notable places as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Washington State Arts Commission, the Denver Art Museum and The Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Arts, in Colorado, and the Weatherspoon Art Museum in North Carolina among others. Fudge received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1985 and a Western States Arts Foundation Fellowship in 1976.
“I was a very young perennial undergraduate, and perhaps in need of a laugh when I walked into the Memorial Center Gallery on the campus of the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1968. The little gallery was cruelly dissected by a grove of columns, but it held some of the most amusing paintings I had ever seen. Not droll, not witty, but out-and-out funny and a little dumb- looking. Enigmatic actions were performed in banal surroundings. There were strange collisions of cartoon characters and stiffly realistic people and animals. In one picture a horde of caped and fanged vampires swarmed like cockroaches, while in another a dinosaur was chased out of a cornfield–Peter Rabbit-wise-by a furious farmer armed with a rake.
None of the paintings was signed, but a card on the wall advertised the artist’s name: John Fudge. Like fun, I thought. In the few months I’d lived in Boulder, I’d already encountered two Peter Pans, a Suzy Rainbow, and an Avalokiteshvara Goodman.
Several years later, we met, found we were of similar, if not sound mind, and married. That delightful melodrama ended only with his death nearly thirty years later. Meanwhile, I had the privilege of watching him paint.
For want of a better term, John Fudge’s work has been termed “neo-surrealist,” among other things, some not printable here. What his paintings, early and late, owe to Rene Magritte is plain enough: the matter-of-fact depiction of dream-like absurdities. But Magritte’s paintings are formed through a process rather like that of poetry–by condensing an infusion of pictorial elements into a single, crystalline idea.
For John Fudge, the process was quite the opposite. His works are not the fusion of previously unrelated parts, but the accumulation, sorting, and classifying separate images, the better to assign them new meanings. The taxonomy is not absolute, however, and the meanings of repeated figures–willowy dames in spike heels, dinosaurs, bizarre still-life elements– are mutable from painting to painting.” – Jane Fudge, 2017