Graham Hudson | MONITOR


I’m empty like a vegetable
15 Mar 2017 – 22 Apr 2017

New solo show of works by Graham Hudson (Sussex, 1977), six years on from his last exhibition in Italy.

Around 1528. After a failed attempt to overthrow the government of the aristocracy in order to grant ordinary citizens the right to vote for the doge and the senate, the Marchese Fonda of the Republic of Genoa is branded a traitor and flees first to France and then to the Netherlands. Eventually, the Fonda family settled in New York, fighting in the American Revolution and Civil War. Enrolled in the United States navy on active duty in the Pacific, Henry Fonda was awarded the Bronze Star and a mention by President Roosevelt as in the films Battle of the Bulge and The Longest Day.

His daughter Jane was named after Lady Jayne Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII and an ancestor on her mother’s side. Whilst in a sanatorium treating depression, Jane’s mother Frances Seymour slit her throat with a razor. Jane was just twelve at the time. On coming of age in 1957, she moved to Paris to become a painter, inspired by the legendary radical avant-garde movements. There she met Roger Vadim and Brigitte Bardot (whom he would later marry) who, like her, were just beginning to come into contact with the culture and politics of the rive gauche. After three months, Jane was obliged to leave the city when a scandal blew up over her having posed nude for a photographer. At this point she followed in her father’s footsteps in Hollywood, signed a contract with a production company and entered the relentless world of the American star system. “For my first film Jack Warner dyed my hair, put me in a corset, made me wear a stuffed bra, had my jaw broken and re-moulded to soften my face and I don’t know what else. Every studio wanted their own version of Marilyn Monroe.”

Jane Fonda returned to Europe regularly in the following years, in 1965 marrying Vadim who directed her in Barbarella in 1968. From sex symbol to political engagement – the most engaging protagonist of American disengagement – as someone once termed her, Fonda supported the Black Panther movement and helped the Viet Cong encourage mutiny among the US forces fighting in Vietnam, which earned her the nickname Jane Hanoi. With characteristic humour, she recalled that period thus: “my only regret was not having been to bed with Che Guevara”.

2018 is the 50th anniversary of those events, that took place in 1968, while 2028 will be the 500th anniversary of the events that unfolded in 1528. (Graham Hudson, scattered notes).

So, as we can see, Graham Hudson’s latest work is structured around the legendary American actress Jane Fonda. Hudson has used Fonda’s character and emblematic life story as a vehicle for introducing a series of themes related to current politics, drawing a close parallel between events in 1968 in Europe and those taking place across the continent today – from the rise of populism to the ongoing debate over security in western society.

Although Hudson is known mainly for his large-scale, site-specific installations (Material Presence, 176/ Zabludowicz Collection, London, 2008, ROCRO Ape., 2012, Museo MACRO Rome), together with installations and videos completed between 2014 and 2017 Hudson will also be presenting – for the first time – a new body of paintings.

Using Fonda’s iconic beauty as a starting point, Hudson has produced a series of paintings that show her in the various stages of her long and varied career, depersonalised from the Hollywood star system.

The sculptures and video featured in the exhibition outline an ongoing current of radicalisation, in political as well as in contemporary art history, as if now – half a century on from the events that took place in 1968 – we are still coming to terms with the same social, political and cultural issues which characterised that moment.

Via Sforza Cesarini, 43a