Donald Judd: Variations on a Theme

June 1–September 9, 2018

Variations on a Theme showcases Untitled, 1977–78, 16 etchings by Judd from the Museum’s permanent collection.

Though he resisted the title, Donald Judd (1928–1994) was a towering figure in the Minimal art movement of the 1960s and 1970s. He created three-dimensional works in series, which engage the space around them. As with many of his Pop Art and Minimalist contemporaries, Judd had his art factory-produced.

Consistent with his three-dimensional constructions, called “Specific Objects,” by Judd, these prints are a series with slight variations; they incorporate clean, precise geometric forms; and, important for Judd, they are not made by the the hand of the artist. Judd’s father Roy was trained as a printmaker and produced many of the artist’s prints. This series demonstrates the variety possible under certain scrupulous parameters. Different angles and varied relationships between lines change our perceptual understanding of each print. Judd wanted his art to be self-evident—what you see is what you see. Refusing to align the diagonal angles of these prints, for example, he highlights specific qualities of the medium itself: graphic, two-dimensional, and not illusionistic.

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Though this exhibition focuses solely on his prints, Judd extended his scope from artwork to furniture and architecture. One of the first artists to convert a former industrial loft into a living and work space in SoHo, Judd later purchased abandoned army barracks in Marfa, Texas, as a space to work outdoors and to contend with the desert landscape itself. These goals were not just aesthetic, but also deeply rooted in environmental concerns. Like reusing industrial space and materials in the production of his art, his Marfa project was twinned with the burgeoning environmental preservation movement of the 1970s.

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Donald Judd. Untitled, 1977–78. Etching. Gift of Mr. A. Charles Miller, 1981 (81.2.1h). © 2018 Judd Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Reproduction, including downloading of Donald Judd works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.