Shapes and Colours. A conversation on Chicago, Creativity and Running.
It’s hard to argue that Chicago isn’t having a moment right now. From Chance to Kanye, Virgil to Don C, artists and creators from the city are driving the aesthetics of contemporary culture worldwide; extending the boundaries and intersections of sport, music, creativity, entertainment and art. Cody Hudson (Struggle Inc.) is a designer and artist and part of this cohort of Chicago creators. From personal art shows to collabs with global brands, there aren’t too many corners of culture that Hudson hasn’t infiltrated with his distinctive aesthetic.
Tempo Co-Founder and Creative Director Andy Sargent caught up with Cody to talk about the aesthetics of athletics and his recent collection for Nike Running.
Hey Cody, thanks for taking time out to chat to us. For anyone who doesn’t know you, what does a typical day look like for Cody Hudson these days?
I get up at 7, eat some breakfast with my kids, take them to school at 8 then head into the studio for the day. I’m usually in the studio from 8:30 – 6 most days and I'll also come back after dinner a few nights a week to work more in the painting studio.
As someone who grew up in and around skating, what’s your relationship with running?
My history of running is mainly based on running away from the cops! But as I get older I’m hoping that will change.
Do you see any parallels between the running and skating?
Both are things that you mainly do by yourself but can also be fun with a crew. so I can see a sense of community around both.
So let’s talk creative. Where do you find your flow? I know you like to get out and be active, take walks and change scenery, what else really gets you going?
Listening to music, looking at books, going to museums, for some reason looking out the window of a moving car always helps, being on an airplane is also good for working on rough ideas.
Also just getting in the studio and making loose drawings and experiments is always a good way to warm up to work on something else.
If you had to describe your aesthetic in a few simple sentences, what would you say?
The shapes and colors department.
I like that, your aesthetic seems perfectly instep with the mindset that’s emerging in running right now, it’s beautifully bold and pure but it’s not concerned with perfection at the expense of a good time, is that a fair reflection?
I like my work to feel like it was made by a human so I appreciate the hand feel of it. The loose cut paper shapes I use a lot convey more feeling than if they were perfectly cut out.
It’s okay to not be perfect right?
For sure, I prefer my work to feel honest not perfect.
You’ve produced a heap of design for apparel brands like Nike SB, Sixpack France, Stussy, Norse Projects and the list goes on (and on and on). Tell me, what’s it like working in running and seeing your art on running apparel?
It’s always exciting to see my work in a different context. So seeing it on running shoes and gear has been fun and a new experience for me. It’s been very cool to see people actually using the products and posting photos of them running in them.
You’ve done a few collections for Nike Running now, has your approach changed after seeing it on people and out in the wild?
My approach changes with each project as they each have their own set of challenges. For the two seasons of running we did we wanted them to feel connected in spirit but not really visually...so the two seasons feel very different to me but both fall under the idea of Higher Than Air.
No doubt you did a heap of research before putting together the Artist in Residence collection, what are the gems you came across that really stuck in your mind?
Lots of good photos of shirtless hippies jogging with good headbands on. The period in the late 60’s to late 70’s had an interesting zen / spiritual / new age connection to running that I was digging.
Totally, I think that spiritual side of the sport is definitely back so it’s interesting to hear that’s what’s informed this collection. Tell us a little bit about the eye graphic in the collection.
I’ve been making these graphic eyes in my work for years, they are a way to bring something slightly figurative into an otherwise abstract graphic composition. I also like the idea of putting them on the back of a running jacket so you can keep an eye on anyone creeping up on you.
And the dot pattern?
The dot pattern started as a way to show movement and motion as if you are viewing a crowd of people running a marathon from far off and just see a swarm of dots weaving through the streets.
Where did Higher than Air come from? Was this you?
I was working closely with Steve Green at Nike on the collection, we were sending inspiration images back and forth we had been collecting and started sending some verbiage around as well. I believe it was Steve who originally came up with it and we quickly realized it really fit the collection so I ran with it.
That’s cool. Interesting that between yourself and Steve there’s a skate aesthetic starting to cross over to running. I dig it.
A lot of your work responds to location or has a connection with a particular city, When putting together this collection was it mostly a Chicago vibe or was it wider than that?
I looked at the collection as more of a global thing, it was designed here in Chicago but wasn’t meant to visually tie back to Chicago specifically.
Let’s talk about the creative scene in Chicago right now. It’s always been strong, and always pushed boundaries but now more than ever across art, design, music, writing, architecture seems like there’s something in the water, what’s going on?
It’s the Midwest, it’s nice here. we have good art, good food and good music. I just really like it here and figured I’d dig in and make a life for myself here instead of feeling like I had to move to one of the coasts. After 20+ years it’s starting to work so I think I’ll stay.
I don’t blame you for staying, seems to be working out. If you had to put it down to one thing, what do you think makes Chicago such a creative city?
Not sure I have an answer for that, I'd like to think it’s the amount of hot dogs we eat but I have a feeling that’s not really a scientific fact.
Sounds like science to me, let’s run with that.
You’re a Chicago local and have produced graphics for the marathon over the years, explain the energy in the city around marathon week for anyone who hasn’t experienced it.
I was born an hour north right across the border in Wisconsin but have spent about half my life here, so I have seen quite a few marathons take place over the years. It’s cool to see the city get excited about something and watch all the visitors come to town. There is some nice energy through the city when the marathon is in town.
Totally agree. So for anyone who is visiting Chicago for the weekend what are the best spots to hit that you won't read about on Yelp?
I always up for a visit to the Garfield Park Conservatory, checking out Volume Gallery, Soccer Club Club Gallery, and Devening Projects, having dinner and a gin martini at Lula café, can’t go wrong with a pastrami sandwich from Manny’s or an El Dorado Supreme from Lonesome Rose for lunch.
Now, we know music is highly formative for you and your work, what’s currently filling up the playlist?
Lots of mellow stuff in the AM, lots of ambient new age kind of stuff helps start the day. Been listening to a lot of stuff from the Numero Group record label lately, they have been putting out some great re issues and compilations. Lots of good music happening in Chicago currently – Circuit des Yeux, Pool Holograph, Courtesy, Dehd, Grapetooth to name a few. I like to fill in the day with some dub and rock steady tunes, ill throw some Neil Young and Grateful Dead in there at some point and end up dipping into a little house, techno, electronic music by the time it's night. Music is on in the studio the whole time I’m there so a lot of stuff is in the mix.
That’s a lot of music. Shall we put you down to curate a TEMPO guest playlist?!
Lastly, what’s next for you? What does the rest of the year hold?
I have a show in Denver at David B Smith gallery in December, also working on a big mural project in Santa Monica in November. I'M working on a photography project with Jared Eberhardt in Big Sur in January, and trying to spend some time in Wisconsin with the family over the winter.