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Donald Judd

Posted: Nov 15 2016

Punk Painter Rules, Numbers 1 through 3: dismiss tradition, reject reliance on the self-referential, and free your work from emotion.  American Minimalist artist Donald Judd (1928-1994) saw no place for a trace back to himself; his art appreciation and achievement was built upon the idea of an object’s existence in its environment.


Judd was literally a Literalist, leaving each item to stand singularly within a broadened body of work that never ascribed to anything beyond its own basic being.  He called these stacks, boxes, and progressions “specific objects” as they were objects sans objective.


In Judd’s manifessay “Specific Objects” (1964), the artist tackled the shackles of Euro-art trickle-down trauma like valuing the illusion of represented space rather than real space.  Ever the challenger, he negated old notions that legit artists have to make their own art, affirming that the mode and mechanism shouldn’t mean the most during the creative process. Citing contemporaries like Jasper Johns, Dan Flavin, and John Chamberlain as evidence in this evolving conversation, Donald Judd’s essay proved that classification is pointless, categorizing is passé, and it’s the disassociation with convention that warrants a piece’s worth. 


His exhibitions opposed sanctioned sculpture – what we view in museums and galleries placed on podiums and platforms purely set apart as art – instead preferring to position his objects directly on the floor where his audience would be forced to face the material of the medium. 


Judd’s creations may be comprised of geometric forms originating from industrialized, machine-made matter but don’t get it twisted: these mathy, modular products can’t be criticized for careless content.


Think of simplicity, the ways it calls on contemplation; imagine the insistence as the beginning of beholding.  To get that impersonal factory feel Judd jumbled iron, plastic, Plexiglass, concrete and steel with Bauhaus know-how.


These were serialized stagings, comments on consumer culture, standardization, matching and multiplying, art democracy and accessibility.  A must mention: Judd’s specifications in regards to dimensions, material, finish, and construction, as quality had to be high, staples sought locally, and function fundamental.  Donald Judd found autonomy for his objects and the space created by them through a preference for permanence and an aversion to an art world that wanted to blend his work into the background.  “After all,” he once said, “ the work isn’t the point; the piece is.”


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