It’s Day 121 and another hot day…not as bad as yesterday, so that’s good. I had to run out and run errands and go to therapy today so I finished my painting earlier today. I think it may also be nap time after carrying groceries around in the heat this afternoon! Join me in honoring Donald Judd today!
Donald Clarence Judd (June 3, 1928 – February 12, 1994) was an American artist associated with minimalism (a term he nonetheless stridently disavowed). In his work, Judd sought autonomy and clarity for the constructed object and the space created by it, ultimately achieving a rigorously democratic presentation without compositional hierarchy. It created an outpouring of seemingly effervescent works that defied the term “minimalism”. Nevertheless, he is generally considered the leading international exponent of “minimalism,” and its most important theoretician through such seminal writings as “Specific Objects” (1964).
Judd was born in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. He served in the Army from 1946–1947
as an engineer and in 1948 began his studies in philosophy at the College of William and Mary, later transferring to Columbia University School of General Studies. At Columbia, he earned a degree in philosophy and worked towards a master’s in art history under Rudolf Wittkower and Meyer Schapiro. At this time he also attended night classes at the Art Students League of New York. He supported himself by writing art criticism for major American art magazines between 1959 and 1965. In 1968 Judd bought a five-story cast-iron building, designed by Nicholas Whyte in 1870, at 101 Spring Street for under $70,000, serving as his New York residence and studio. Over the next 25 years, Judd renovated the building floor by floor, sometimes installing works he purchased or commissioned from other artists.
In the late 1940s, Donald Judd began to practice as a painter. His first solo exhibition, of expressionist paintings, opened in New York in 1957. From the mid-1950s to 1961, as he explored the medium of the woodcut, Judd progressively moved from figurative to increasingly abstract imagery, first carving organic rounded shapes, then moving on to the painstaking craftsmanship of straight lines and angles. His artistic style soon moved away from illusory media and embraced constructions in which materiality was central to the work. He would not have another one person show until the Green Gallery in 1963, an exhibition of works that he finally thought worthy of showing.
By 1963 Judd had established an essential vocabulary of forms — ‘stacks’, ‘boxes’ and
‘progressions’ — which preoccupied him for the next thirty years. Most of his output was in freestanding “specific objects” (the name of his seminal essay of 1965 published in Arts Yearbook 8, 1965), that used simple, often repeated forms to explore space and the use of space. Humble materials such as metals, industrial plywood, concrete and color-impregnated Plexiglas became staples of his career.
Judd’s first floor box structure was made in 1964, and his first floor box using Plexiglas followed one year later. Also by 1964, he began work on wall-mounted sculptures, and first developed the curved progression format of these works in 1964 as a development from his work on an untitled floor piece that set a hollow pipe into a solid wooden block. While Judd executed early works himself (in collaboration with his father, Roy Judd), in 1964 he began delegating fabrication to professional artisans and manufacturers (such as the industrial manufacturers Bernstein Brothers) based on his drawings. In 1965, Judd created his first stack, an arrangement of identical iron units stretching from floor to ceiling.
As he abandoned painting for sculpture in the early 1960s, he wrote the manifesto-like essay “Specific Objects” in 1964. In his essay, Judd
found a starting point for a new territory for American art, and a simultaneous rejection of residual inherited European artistic values, these values being illusion and represented space, as opposed to real space. He pointed to evidence of this development in the works of an array of artists active in New York at the time, including Lucas Samaras, John Chamberlain, Jasper Johns, Dan Flavin, George Earl Ortman and Lee Bontecou.
The works that Judd had fabricated inhabited a space not then comfortably classifiable as either painting or sculpture and in fact he refused to call them sculpture, pointing out that they were not sculpted but made by small fabricators using industrial processes. That the categorical identity of such objects was itself in question, and that they avoided easy association with well-worn and over-familiar conventions, was a part of their value for Judd. He displayed two pieces in the seminal 1966 exhibit, “Primary Structures” at the Jewish Museum in New York where, during a panel discussion of the work, he challenged Mark di Suvero’s assertion that real artists make their own art. He replied that methods should not matter as long as the results create art; a groundbreaking concept in the accepted creation process. In 1968, the Whitney Museum of American Art staged a retrospective of his work which included none of his early paintings.
In 1968, Judd bought a five-story building in New York that allowed him to start placing his work in a more permanent manner than was
possible in gallery or museum shows. This would later lead him to push for permanent installations for his work and that of others, as he believed that temporary exhibitions, being designed by curators for the public, placed the art itself in the background, ultimately degrading it due to incompetency or incomprehension. This would become a major preoccupation as the idea of permanent installation grew in importance and his distaste for the art world grew in equal proportion.
Judd married dancer Julie Finch in 1964 (later divorced) and fathered two children, son Flavin Starbuck Judd and daughter Rainer Yingling Judd. He died in Manhattan of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1994. He had homes in Manhattan, Marfa, Texas and Kussnacht am Rigi, Switzerland.
Partial biography from wikipedia.
I hope you like my tribute piece to Donald Judd. It’s getting easier for me to do pieces like this one. Well, I will see you tomorrow on Day 122! My artists are all getting out of order so I need to get organizing today and write up who I’m honoring for this next week! Best, Linda