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Donald Judd (American, 1928–1994)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

American sculptor, painter and writer. He studied philosophy and art history at the Art Students League (1947–8; 1950–53) and Columbia University (1949–53; 1957–62), a training that encompassed art theory as well as painting and sculpture. His first works, which he later termed ‘half-baked abstractions’, were untitled paintings in which he sought to simplify composition and to eliminate the balancing of forms that he felt characterized post-war European art. From 1959 to 1965 he wrote art criticism for American journals such as Arts Magazine, championing fellow artists from New York such as Claes Oldenburg, Frank Stella, John Chamberlain and Dan Flavin. During this period he gave up painting in order to devote himself to sculpture, or rather to the object, making painted wooden structures such as Light Cadmium Red Oil on Wood (1963; Ottawa, N.G.) that he exhibited in 1963 at the Green Gallery, New York. In their matter-of-factness and simplicity these abstract works were a logical continuation of the Colour field painting practised by American artists such as Barnett Newman. By placing the objects directly on the ground rather than on a plinth or base, Judd further emphasized their self-sufficiency, as in Untitled (1963; Ottawa, N.G.)

Between 1964 and 1966 Judd perfected a formal vocabulary that was soon labelled Minimalism, which he subsequently developed in different materials. A favourite form was the box, either closed, semi-hollow or transparent, presented neutrally so as to refute any symbolic connotation. In some cases a number of boxes were attached to the wall in the form of a stack of alternating solids and voids of equal size, as in Untitled (1965; Stockholm, Mod. Mus.). Many of the works embodied seriality, either as a simple mathematical progression or as a repetition of a standard unit. In works such as Anodized Aluminium and Brushed Aluminium (1969; Eindhoven, Stedel. Van Abbemus.) Judd favoured metals such as painted steel, aluminium or galvanized iron as sculptural materials, sometimes in combination with another industrial material, perspex (as in Untitled, 1968; Toronto, A.G. Ont.). Subsequently he used unpolished laminated wood and (for his outdoor sculptures) concrete. He had his works made in a factory in order to obtain a perfect finish without having to rework the material.

Judd belonged to a generation that ignored traditional craft skills in deference to an overriding system or idea. His theories were elaborated in an influential article, ‘Specific Objects’, in 1965. Judd began in the 1970s to work on a larger scale, gradually creating a type of open-air museum of his work surrounding his studio at Marfa, TX. In 1984 he also began applying the principles of his sculpture to a plain style of furniture.

Alfred Pacquement
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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