Donald Judd

An Early Handmade Chair

Few contemporary artists have been as rigorous and tightly focused as Donald Judd (1928-94), who spent most of his creative life refining a few simple geometrical forms in wood and metal. To free himself from dependence on galleries and museums, he renovated a five-story cast-iron warehouse in SoHo and purchased a former army base in Marfa—retreats where he could create and display permanent installations of his work. He established a foundation that has restored the studio/residence on Spring Street, and maintains the sprawling sheds at Marfa. There and at Dia:Beacon, one can immerse oneself in the private world of this obsessive artist.

There is human-scale and no-nonsense thinking and rationality at the heart of the Judd philosophy. A sculptor, architect, and writer, among other things, Judd was thorough, definite, and complete in his life as well as his work.

Like the pioneer modernists who designed furniture because there was nothing suitable in the market, Judd began making chairs and tables in 1973 to furnish his living space at Marfa. The subtly varied pieces have an affinity to his artworks, but Judd refused to admit the resemblance. “The configuration and the scale of art cannot be transposed into furniture and architecture,” he declared. “The intent of art is different from that of the latter, which must be functional. If a chair or a building is not functional, if it appears to be only art, it is ridiculous. The art of a chair is not its resemblance to art, but is partly its reasonableness, usefulness and scale as a chair...A work of art exists as itself; a chair exists as a chair itself.”

The art of a chair is not its resemblance to art, but is partly its reasonableness, usefulness and scale as a chair... A work of art exists as itself; a chair exists as a chair itself.

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.

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