Born in 1928 in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, American artist Donald Judd brought his Midwestern roots to the heart of the art world. Known primarily as a sculptor and an art critic, Donald Judd died in 1994, leaving behind an impressive body of work and a reputation for excellence.
During his long life, Donald Judd placed a strong emphasis on the quality of each piece he created. The American-born artists once remarked that the work is not the point - the piece is, and he brought that attitude to each new work of art he created.
From an early age, Donald Judd was drawn to three-dimensional representations. He was always a fan of sculpture, and he soon developed a reputation as a fine sculptor in his own right.
Judd was well known for his fine sculpture, but he was even better known for his rejection of sculpture in its traditional form. Instead of focusing on traditional forms of artistic expression, Donald Judd turned his sights, and his talents, to the existence of objects in their native environment.
As such, Donald Judd is most closely associated with the Minimalist movement, an artistic movement that sought to fight back against Abstract Expressionism and focus on the real. Minimalist artists, including Donald Judd, often created large works comprised of repeated geometric forms. Those works of machine-made materials soon gained a life of their own, thanks to the talents of the artists who created them.
Donald Judd was a well-known figure in the Minimalist movement, bringing his modular and geometric pieces to galleries and museums around the world. Many fans see Judd's sculptures as not only artistic objects but objects of contemplation. Instead of focusing on the object itself, viewers are invited to focus on the viewing process itself.
Throughout his life, Donald Judd sought to create objects that could stand on their own. At the same time, the sculptures he created could also be viewed as individual pieces of a larger landscape. This unique perspective sometimes caused critics to refer to Judd's form of Minimalism as Literalist.
To Donald Judd, the setting mattered nearly as much as the artwork itself. Instead of placing his finished sculptures on a plinth for display, Judd placed the pieces on their own. By inviting the viewer to see the works on their own, without a formal display, Judd elevated the value of the object itself.
These kinds of contrasts existed everywhere in Donald Judd's work. The contrast between the materials used and the techniques employed is particularly informative.
Many of Judd's sculptures are comprised of beautifully finished industrial materials, things like steel, plastic, iron and even Plexiglass. At the same time, the techniques employed to bring them to life harken back to the Bauhaus School. The end result are works that have a unique factory aesthetic that is both impersonal and totally unique.
This impersonal aesthetic represented a clean break from the Abstract Expressionism of the day, which sought to bring high levels of personalization and interaction to the finished work. The difference in the two approaches is clear even to the casual observer, and even more evident to experienced art lovers.
In designing his works, Donald Judd often presented his sculptures in serial form. By representing consumer objects in a dispassionate manner, Judd was able to elicit strong responses in his audience, and the serial nature of the works helped him gain a loyal following in the art world.
At the same time, Donald Judd helped to democratize the art world and make it more accessible to outsiders. The use of industrial objects and fabricated parts served to demystify artistic expression in general and sculpture in particular. That, in turn, helped newcomers get their start, and many contemporary artists were originally influenced by Judd and his creations.
Donald Judd also helped change the way artwork, especially sculpture, was displayed. These days, it is quite common to see sculptural works displayed directly on gallery floors, but in Judd's day, this kind of display was a rare sight. By freeing sculpture from its pedestal, Judd changed the way art is perceived, and his influence on the art world continues to this day. Even years after his death, Donald Judd is still influencing young artists, and that is a very good thing.
Donald Judd Untitled (91-149 Menziken), 1991 anodized aluminium and transparent blue plexiglass 9 7/8 x 39 3/8 x 9 7/8 inches
Donald Judd Untitled (87-29 Studer), 1987 Painted and unpainted aluminium in two parts 11 13/16 x 141 3/4 x 11 13/16 in
Donald Judd Untitled (91-2 Bernstein), 1991 stainless steel and red Plexiglas, in ten parts each: 9 x 40 x 31 inches
Donald Judd Untitled, 1969 galvanized iron 5 x 40 x 9 inches
Donald Judd Untitled (88-27 Menziken), 1988 anodized aluminum, green Plexiglas, in 6 parts each 19 3/4 x 39 x 19 3/4 inches
Donald Judd Untitled (DSS 42), 1963 light cadmium red oil and black oil on wood with galvanized iron and aluminum 76 x 96 x 11¾ inches