Donald Judd

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Donald Judd was an eminent twentieth-century American painter. His work was associated with minimalist painting, though he disclaimed any such association. He aspired to achieve clarity and autonomy of the subject of his work. He was considered the leading international exponent of minimalism owing to his seminal manifesto such as “Specific Objects”.

Born on June 3, 1928, Donald Clarence Judd grew up in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. At the age of eighteen he served in the army as an engineer. When he turned twenty he enrolled himself at at the College of William and Mary studying philosophy. Later he transferred to Columbia University School of General Studies.  He earned a Bachelor in Arts in Philosophy at Columbia University. Then he invested his time in earning a Masters in Arts Philosophy. Simultaneously, he registered at himself at the Art Students League of New York for night class.

Judd supported himself during his student years by writing art criticism for leading American art magazines. 1940s is marked as the decade when he took up painting for the first time. In 1957, he had his first solo exhibition that featured expressionist paintings which was held in New York. While working on these paintings he discovered the medium of woodcut. Similar to other artists, Judd’s artwork evolved from figurative to more abstract imagery. He soon began to favour straight lines and angles over organic rounded shapes. Illusory media took the backseat while he focused upon the materiality of his work.

For a while Judd kept his work under wraps, hidden from the eyes of another soul. Eventually, he felt satisfied with his work as he exhibited it in the Green Gallery in 1963. That decade onwards the primary elements of his work became the humble construction site material. He made use of metals, concrete, color-impregnated Plexiglas and industrial plywood. In 1964 he constructed first floor box structure and the following year he used Plexiglas for making it. It was the time when he experimented with wall-mounted sculptures. Earlier in his career he sought help of his father Roy Judd on several projects. Later he brought in several artisans and manufacturers to collaborate with on his designs. His first stack showcased arrangement of several identical iron rods protruding from floor and reaches the ceiling.

When he abandoned his sculpting experiments, Judd went back to writing. It was then that he wrote the groundbreaking the essay “Specific Objects” in 1964 which was published in Arts Yearbook 8 in 1965. In his pioneering essay he reflected on breaking away from inherited European artistic value while embracing the dawn of unprecedented American art. He claimed those old values represented nothing but illusion of space as opposed the real space. Judd’s idiosyncratic was hard to classify given the use of fabricators. He refused to categorize his artwork as sculptors since the materiality of his work was industrial equipments.

In 1970s Donald Judd prolifically produced art while also rendering it sophisticated and complex. His installation became monumental that covered the entire room. Throughout the decade he focused on defying the artistic principles laid by his European predecessors and produced some radical work. He believed in the clarity, vividness and well-defined work as his aesthetic principles found illusion and falsity despicable. Judd work was exhibited at several noteworthy galleries such as The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa and Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven.

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