“I had always considered my work another activity of some kind,” remarked artist Donald Judd. “I certainly didn’t think I was making sculpture.” Declassifying thoughts into a simple, streamlined manner requires the mind to be in a state of explorative, yet meditative state.
Donald Clarence Judd was an American artist, who evolved from being an expressionist painter to furniture design and architecture. Prior to pursuing art, Judd was an art critic who studied the history of art who immersed himself in galleries and writing for art magazines. Being part of the new era of American dominance on the world stage in the 40s, Judd’s career in the field of art started after his studies in Columbia University School of General Studies where he transferred and earned a bachelor degree in philosophy and went on to major in art history, whilst attending classes at Art Students League of New York.
Evolution as a Sculptor | Donald Judd
The Pandoras Gallery in New York 1957, exhibited his paintings that explored woodcut as the medium of expression. His shift from abstract imagery swiftly transitioned to straight lines and angles by the early 60s. He had developed a certain vocabulary of forms such as boxes, stacks, and geometric progression, for the next 30 years.
His famous essay titled, ‘specific objects’ explains using repetitive forms in space. He rejected the borrowed ideas of European art and values and wanted to propagate American art. He explored industrial materials which had not been used as a medium to express art and started fabricating art using industrial processes, such as plexiglass, industrial plywood, metal, concrete, and concrete.
He developed a vocabulary of forms, ‘stacks’, ‘progressions’ or ‘stacks’.He emphasises the phenomenological experience of objects rather than metaphysical symbolism. Judd identified himself as a maker of objects rather than an artist.
‘Primary Structures’- the exhibit at Jewish Museum in New York in 1966 was an example of showcasing art that did not necessarily require a definite medium to express its intent. To enforce this idea of art to the public in 1968 he bought a 5-storey building that gave his work more permanence, rather than pushing it back into the corners of galleries, undermining its significance. This ushered him to establish permanent installations in his later works.
The early 70s took him to Baja California, where the desert’s vastness allowed his art to grow in scale and complexity. He bought 32,000 acres of land collectively known as Ayala de Chinati. It was during this time that his focus on art was completely independent of its European counterpart which was prominent in the 70s-80s. His idea of art to simply exist without representing anything paved the way for his installation Untitled (1984), which was a three-part sculpture made with concrete and steel reinforcements installed in Laumeier Sculpture Park.
He embraced unpainted plywood which eliminated the problems of bending and buckling and gave his forms more flexibility. Cor-ten steel was another material used for his large-scale installations, followed by enamel on aluminium which was earlier used in furniture designing. Using enamel, pushed Judd to explore different colours for his installations.
In the mid-50s, he also worked on sculptural objects. Displayed in editions, there were installations on the floor, walls, tables, etc. He used stainless steel, cold-rolled steel, galvanised iron, acrylic sheet, anodized aluminium and wood. These were usually small in size 1x1m in length and width.
Shifting towards Furniture designing and Architecture
From the 1970s Judd collaborated with Lauretta Vinciarelli, an Italian-born architect and artist in New York who partnered together for over a decade on gardens and civic spaces in Providence, Rhode Island, and Cleveland, Ohio.
In 1979, Judd commissioned a project to Vinciarelli to make drawings for a garden at the Walker House, a home he owned. Pergolas, trees, and water elements were highlights of this project which were later incorporated in other projects by the duo.
Another project completed by Judd and Vinciarelli was the Kennedy Plaza in Providence in the early 1980s. He quoted,’ built in place, particular to the site, the whole complex, and with some purpose’. This was a project where a series of concentric circles were made with granite sand and gravel from a nearby quarry. Each concentric circle served a purpose, mainly proving a physical platform for public discussion close to Providence City Hall.
Donald Judd’s Writings and Legacy
Many of his writings that included essays, notes, and letters were unpublished for the longest time. Edited by Flavin Judd and Caitlin Murray, Judd’s works were consolidated in his book, ‘Donald Judd Writings’.
Most of his early works were art reviews, the definition of art criticism, and essays he wrote while pursuing his undergraduate studies at the University of Columbia. There have been smaller publications on art history, politics, and literary texts.
Judd’s expression of art was straightforward, strongly objectifying colour, form, material, and space. He believed in the art that could create its ‘presence’ using simple materials giving a firm definition.
- Judd, D. (1965). Specific Objects. [online] . Available at: http://old.museotamayo.org/uploads/publicaciones/SpecificObjectsFinal.pdf
- Wikipedia Contributors (2019). Donald Judd. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Judd.
- Keats, J. (n.d.). A MoMA Retrospective Reveals How Donald Judd Reinvented Sculpture By Reverse-Engineering Art History. [online] Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathonkeats/2020/09/25/a-moma-retrospective-reveals-how-donald-judd-reinvented-sculpture-by-reverse-engineering-art-history/?sh=26974067f551
- Kennedy, R. (2016). Donald Judd, Artist, Revealed as a Philosopher-Critic by His Children. The New York Times. [online] 25 Dec. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/25/arts/design/donald-judd-writings-a-book-helped-along-by-his-children.html
- www.david zwirner.com. (n.d.). Donald Judd – Artworks & Biography | David Zwirner. [online] Available at: https://www.davidzwirner.com/artists/donald-judd
- Judd Foundation. (n.d.). Local History: Lauretta Vinciarelli and Donald Judd. [online] Available at: https://juddfoundation.org/research/local-history/local-history-lauretta-vinciarelli-and-donald-judd/