Artist: Donald Judd

Wright celebrates the work of Donald Judd, one of the most influential artists and critics of the twentieth century. Judd's sculpture, furniture, interiors and writing significantly shaped the contemporary arts landscape and our considerations of art-as-object. His monumental legacy is one that we are proud to present.
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Intellect and emotion, thought and feeling, and form and content are the same false dichotomy.

Donald Judd

Auction Results Donald Judd

Donald Judd 1928–1994

Donald Judd is one of the most important artists and art theorists of the twentieth century. While he is most well-known for his minimalist, monumental and site-specific sculptures of the 1970s and 1980s, he was also a painter, furniture designer and an influential critic, ultimately shaping the contemporary artistic discourse.

Judd was born in Excelsior Springs, Missouri and served in the Army from 1946 to 1947, until he attended the College of William and Mary to study philosophy. He transferred to Columbia University in 1948, graduating with a degree in philosophy and art history in 1953, while also taking painting classes at the Art Students League. From 1959 to 1965, Judd was an art critic for major art publications such as Art News, where he refined his unaffected, direct, articulate style that characterized both his writing and art, aligning himself with the radical shifts taking place in the art world at the time. 

As a visual artist, Judd started painting in the abstract expressionist style that was popular in the late 1940s and early 1950s, eventually moving on to woodcuts in the later 1950s, with the first show of his work at Panoramas Gallery in 1957. Judd stridently turned away from two-dimensional representation by the early 1960s and had his first show of his mature three-dimensional works in 1963 at Green Gallery. This exhibition presaged the “boxes,” “stacks,” and “progressions” executed in industrial-grade metal, plywood, and plastics, that he became widely known for in the years to come. In 1964, he published his influential essay Specific Objects which decried the staid European artistic values of representation and illusionistic space in favor of bringing about art that existed in real space and had a concrete material and physical presence, rather than works that alluded to or represented a meaning beyond the direct experience of the work. Judd, concerned chiefly with the most rudimentary elements of art — color, material, scale, proportion, repetition — and the arrangement of those elements in space, eschewed the designation of “sculptor” and instead referred to himself as a “maker of specific objects.”

Judd taught at Brooklyn College from 1962 to 1965 and served as a visiting artist at Dartmouth in 1966 and an instructor at Yale in 1967. In 1966, two of his works were featured in the seminal exhibition of conceptual art, “Primary Structures,” at the Jewish Museum in New York City. During a panel discussion, he radically asserted that the traditional insistence of the artist’s hand was obsolete and it was the artistic intent that created the work. From that show, he garnered the attention of famed art dealer Leo Castelli, who organized a number of solo exhibitions of Judd’s work, bringing him distinction in the international art scene. During this era and into the 1970s, Judd received prestigious grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, allowing him to continue working toward a more ambitious scale. The Whitney Museum of American Art held the first retrospective of his work in 1968, bringing his work and critical theory to the forefront of contemporary art.

In 1968, Judd bought a five-story building at 101 Spring Street in SoHo in New York City, which he transformed into a living and studio space, showing his own work, as well as commissioned work from artists such as Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain. In 1971, Judd took up residence in Marfa, Texas and his artistic output expanded to include large-scale public sculptures, plywood and sheet metal furniture, and efforts in arts and environmental conservation through collaborations with Dia Art Foundation and establishing his own Chinati Foundation in 1986. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Judd returned to art theory, teaching and lecturing at universities around the world, and focused more on architecture and space and its relation to art, all while continuing to create public sculptures. Judd passed away in 1994 in New York City.

Judd’s artistic legacy is preserved through the Judd Foundation, which maintains permanent installations of his work at his former 101 Spring Street and Marfa residences, both of which are open to the public and have undergone major restorations in recent years. Judd’s work is widely held in private and public institutions and both his art and writing continue to be highly influential, carrying his concise, uncluttered thoughts on the importance of art as object and space as art into our contemporary understanding of the place of art in our society. 

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