Absurdist Formalism


Peter Dudek makes assemblagist sculptural installations consisting of elements found, made, and modified. He employs severe geometries, lines, and planes of color – the tropes of high formalism -- put into tension as organized, incongruous assemblies. Although referencing the taxonomies of formalism, Dudek employs a fluidity and sense of humor that resists any ‘pure’ reductive urge. His focus is on order in pure play. For this reason, his works can be viewed as operating via an absurdist formalism.

This Absurdist Formalism is made explicit in his print ‘House Dreaming’ (2000-2002). Using the (low) Pop convention of thought-bubbles, Dudek places a thought bubble of a cool Corbusier modernist architectural structure emerging from a homey Cape-style house. Not only do we feel the incongruity of a fabricated structure represented as actively imagining – a domestic structure seen pre-occupying itself-- there is also an opposition of architectural ideals. The presentation of a static functional structure with a self-reflective interior calls to mind the philosopher Henri Bergson’s analysis of the source of humor – “the mechanical encrusted upon the living”. Here Dudek extends the reverse teleology of comedy by “encrusting” the functional object with life.

Some of the materials in his ongoing project include shelves, tables, chairs and stools -- deliberately stripped of their functional ends -- cut forms, wire drawings, framed prints. These elements are stacked, set in rows or series, placed on the walls and floors, arranged and rearranged as meandering intersections, points and configurations. Since he modifies and rearranges the work over the course of the exhibition, the works are sinuous improvisations, a tuned play of parts. Although the parts stand in places that seem precisely calculated and defined, the work itself resists rational closure by any determinate organizing schemata. Dudek calls his new (and ongoing) work “Monument to My Love life”, but this is a monument that resists the monumentalizing urge. Like his other works, it is a rhythm of points in perpetual play. 

Robert Gero

Absurdist formalism images