Donald Judd: Artist Portrait

Donald Judd

Born 1928. Died 1994.
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Donald Judd Biography

Perhaps one of the most recognizable names in the field of Minimalism, both the works and writings of Donald Judd have come to regarded as seminal in the course of art historical canon of the late 20th century. Born in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, in 1928, Judd served in the United States Army between 1946 and 1947 before enrolling at the Art Students League in New York in 1948; within the same year, however, he opted to enroll briefly at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, before ultimately enrolling at Columbia University, New York, to study philosophy. After receiving his BS in Philosophy, he pursued his MA in art history, supporting himself by writing art criticism for publications such as Art News, Arts Magazine, and Art International.

Up until the early 1960s, Judd had worked predominately in painting, but then turned his attention to sculpture, producing Minimalist sculptures made from industrial materials such as steel and concrete. In 1964, Judd published his essay Specific Objects, which decried traditional forms of illusionism in art via representation, and instead championed physical environment as the basis for art. This essay in many ways marked the turning point in Judd’s art practice, and foreshadowed the trajectory of art canon from that point. Throughout the rest of the 1960s, Judd exhibited consistently, culminating in a retrospective held at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1968.
Seeking an alternative from the pressures and influences of the New York art scene, Judd moved to the small town of Marfa, Texas, in 1972, where he would live and work for the remainder of his life. Beginning in the 1980s, he began plans for the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, a series of renovated buildings within the town that would operate as exhibition spaces for both his own work and fellow contemporary artists, which opened in 1986. Despite the demands of his projects in Marfa, Judd continued to exhibit widely, including at the Venice Biennale in 1980, Documenta in 1982, and a retrospective initiated by the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven in 1987 that travelled throughout Europe. During this time as well, Judd continued to write extensively, consistently endorsing Minimalist art and creating a significant body of texts that would solidify his intellectual contributions to the study of art history.

Donald Judd died of cancer in 1994, but his legacy has lived on through both his writings, which are today still considered the most comprehensive source material on Minimalism, and the art spaces he created. The Chinati Foundation continues to operate in Marfa, serving as a place of research and exhibition space, and offering artist residencies. His work can be seen at the majority of leading art institutions, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Tate Modern, London; and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

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