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Texas Originals

Donald Judd, The Artist

Donald Judd was an influential artist whose work continues to attract interest, long after his death, especially in the West Texas town of Marfa.

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DONALD CLARENCE JUDD
June 3, 1928–February 12, 1994

 

Born in 1928, the artist Donald Judd was nurtured in the cultural hotbed of New York City. But the austere, high desert of West Texas became his artistic home.

In the sixties, Judd began creating pared-down, geometric sculptures out of metal and Plexiglas. He didn't intend these works to represent anything; instead, they were things in themselves, meant to be experienced rather than analyzed.

On a road trip in the early seventies, Judd passed through the West Texas town of Marfa and was captivated by the area's broad spaces and shifting sunlight. He soon settled there and bought local properties and ranchland, including a decommissioned Army base. Judd developed the site as the Chinati Foundation, a showcase for his own artworks and those of others.

Untitled box-like art, sometimes called "Judd's cubes," by Donald Judd, on the grounds of the Chinati Foundation, or La Fundacion Chinati.

Chinati's centerpiece is Judd's series of 100 aluminum boxes, housed in two vast former artillery sheds. The large boxes are arranged in neat rows, with their interiors exposed. Their effect on the visitor is cumulative. As one critic writes, the "shimmering boxes form a giant multifaceted mirror that reflects the vast panorama surrounding the site." The work is abstract, yet it quietly evokes "the transcendental majesty of the American West."

Judd passed away in 1994. But his works continue to attract thousands of visitors each year to Marfa and this unlikely cultural outpost.

 

For more about Donald Judd

The Chinati Foundation in Marfa features temporary exhibitions, in addition to the permanent installations by Donald Judd and other artists. An illustrated description of Judd's 100 untitled works in mill aluminum is available on the Chinati website.

Headquarters building of the Chinati Foundation, or La Fundacion Chinati, a contemporary art museum in Marfa.

Headquarters building of the Chinati Foundation, or La Fundacion Chinati, a contemporary art museum in Marfa. Image credit: Photographer Carol M.Highsmith/LOC

The Judd Foundation maintains and preserves Donald Judd's private living and working spaces in New York and in Marfa. It also offers scholarly and educational programs that foster a broader understanding of Judd's legacy as an artist.

 

Video: Houston Publc Media – The Chinati Foundation


The Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum in Marfa, Texas, was founded by the artist Donald Judd. Chinati executive director Jenny Moore talks about Judd’s visionary ideas, his philosophy and advocation of permanent installation, and why the museum endures as a powerful, significant and historical achievement in the world of contemporary art.

Selected bibliography

Draper, Robert. "His Own Private Marfa." Texas Monthly 22 (July, 1994): 74.

Ennis, Michael. "Art on the Range." Departures (March 2010). Accessed October 28, 2014. http://www.departures.com/art-culture/design/art-range

Long, Christopher. “Judd, Donald Clarence.” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fjuyq), accessed August 12, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Michel, Karen. "For Judd Family, Home Is Where the (Rectilinear) Art Is." NPR broadcast on July 21, 2013. 198412320/for-judd-family-home-is-where-the-rectilinear-art-is/ (accessed August 12, 2013).

Raskin, David. Donald Judd. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.

Sides, Anne Goodwin. "Donald Judd Found Perfect Canvas in Texas Town." NPR broadcast on January 31, 2009. http://www.npr.org/2009/01/31/99130809/donald-judd-found-perfect-canvas-in-texas-town/ (accessed August 12, 2013).

Stokebrand, Marianne, ed. Chinati: The Vision of Donald Judd. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.