Minimalism appeared in American visual arts during the 1960s, and its roots can be traced back to the interwar experimentation with form, materials, and textures found in the German Bauhaus, Russian Constructivism, and Dutch De Stijl. Alongside the reductionist explorations, the artists around this influential movement were also triggered by the shifting social and political circumstances.
At the forefront of Minimalism stood Donald Judd as its most prolific practitioner, an artist who defined the movement in his theoretical writings (yet rejected the term), and made an impeccable body of work that moved the conventions of sculpture to an entirely new level.
To revisit Judd's radical domains, and therefore offer a new perspective on the role he had in the development of American art of the second half of 20th century, the Museum of Modern Art in New York is hosting a proper retrospective, and amazingly so, the first one after three decades.
The exhibition pays homage to one of a kind artist, theoretician, and lecturer who revolutionized the medium of sculpture by introducing bold and unprecedented concepts and methods with approximately seventy works in sculpture, painting, drawing, and prints loaned from public and private collections in the US and abroad.
Judd is jointly curated by Ann Temkin, The Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture, and Yasmil Raymond, former Associate Curator, with the assistance of Tamar Margalit, Curatorial Assistant, and Erica Cooke, Research Fellow, Department of Painting and Sculpture, MoMA. Temkin briefly underlined the importance of this survey.
Half a century after Judd established himself as a leading figure of his time, there remains a great deal to discover. MoMA’s presentation covers the full arc of his career, aiming to reveal its largely unexpected variety and complexity.
The installment is chronologically organized to unravel the development of Donald Judd’s unique artistic vision.
Starting with the selection of works made during the early 1960s, the visitors are confronted with the development of the outstanding visual language primarily based on the experimentation with three-dimensionality that continues further with the introduction of his iconic box form and exploration of materials such as metals and plastics.
The following selection includes works made in the 1970s which reflect an apparent shift in the understanding of the media; during that time Judd moved his practice to Marfa, Texas, where he began working with site-specific pieces and therefore experimenting with new materials and structures.
The final gallery features the works the artist made during the last decade of his life. Most of these artworks were produced in Europe and they show Judd’s utmost decisiveness in rejecting the Minimalist label.
To immerse fully into his Imaginarium and understand the principles of his work better, the visitors are encouraged to experience the reading room filled with Judd-designed furniture, the exhibition catalog, a few important books on the artist’s work, as well as his own writings.
This exhibition will surely contribute to new observations and conclusions regarding specific chapters of Judd’s oeuvre, and the way it inspired the later generation of artists around the globe.
Although MoMA is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Judd is partially presented online, and is scheduled to be on display at The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Center for Special Exhibitions, Floor Six until 11 July 2020.
Featured images: Installation view of Judd, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, March 1–July 11, 2020. Digital Image © 2020 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo by Jonathan Muzikar; Donald Judd - Untitled, 1968. Stainless steel and amber Plexiglas; six units, each 34 × 34 × 34″ (86.4 × 86.4 × 86.4 cm), with 8″ (20.3 cm) intervals. Overall: 34 × 244 × 34″ (86.4 × 619.8 × 86.4 cm). Layton Art Collection Inc., Purchase, at the Milwaukee Art Museum © 2020 Judd Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: © John R. Glembin. All images courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York.