“Any combining, mixing, adding, diluting, exploiting, vulgarizing, or popularizing of abstract art deprives art of its essence and depraves the artist’s artistic consciousness. Art is free, but it is not a free-for-all.” —Donald Judd
Donald Judd (1928–1994) was one of the foremost practitioners of Minimalism, which had its apex in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the wake of Abstract Expressionism and its highly subjective, mystical focus, Judd and other Minimalists sought to create a depersonalized art in which the physical properties of space, scale, and materials were explored as phenomena of interest on their own, rather than as metaphors for human experience. “A shape, a volume, a color, a surface is something itself,” Judd wrote. “It shouldn’t be concealed as part of a fairly different whole.”
The Essential Donald Judd features a small but choice group of objects and prints drawn from the Walker’s collection. Highlights include the newly restored untitled (1971), a group of six large-scale aluminum cubes that is rarely exhibited due to its size, and an important portfolio of 30 woodblock prints that will be presented for the first time since its acquisition.
In the 1960s, Judd became well known for sleek, boxlike constructions made of industrial materials such as plywood, sheet metal, and plexiglass that were painted using commercial techniques. Stacked, aligned, cantilevered, or centered, their strict geometric arrangements—often derived from mathematical progressions—eliminate the idea of composition and achieve a singular focus on the object itself. They combine elements of architecture, sculpture, and painting, and though they are resolutely three-dimensional, Judd refused to call them sculpture, a term he associated with the hand-crafted art of an earlier era. Instead, he referred to them as “specific objects”—a phrase meant to suggest their neutral, discrete nature.
Because of limited exhibition space, much of the work on view here is rarely seen by the public. By bringing together these key sculptures and works on paper, The Essential Donald Judd presents a rare opportunity for viewers to explore this artist’s ideas and objects through the extraordinary depth of the Walker’s collection.
Curators: Siri Engberg and Betsy Carpenter, Visual Arts, Walker Art Center