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Artists Donald Judd
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Donald Judd

American Art Critic and Sculptor

Movement: Minimalism

Born: June 3, 1928 - Excelsior Springs, Missouri

Died: February 12, 1994 - New York, New York

Donald Judd Timeline


"After all, the work isn't the point; the piece is."
Donald Judd
"Well, I am not interested in the kind of expression that you have when you paint a painting with brush strokes. It's all right, but it's already done and I want to do something new. I didn't want to get into something which is played out and narrow. I want to do as I like, invent my own interests. Of course, that doesn't mean that people who, like Newman, still paint are worn out. But I think that's a particular kind of experience involving a certain immediacy between you and the canvas, you and the particular kind of experience of that particular moment. I think what I'm trying to deal with is something more long range than that in a way, more obscure perhaps, more involved with things that happen over a longer time perhaps. At least it's another area of experience."
Donald Judd
"Most art is fragile and some should be placed and never moved away."
Donald Judd
"It takes a great deal of time and thought to install work carefully. This should not always be thrown away. Most art is fragile and some should be placed and never moved again. Somewhere a portion of contemporary art has to exist as an example of what the art and its context were meant to be. Somewhere, just as the platinum iridium meter guarantees the tape measure, a strict measure must exist for the art of this time and place."
Donald Judd

"Three dimensions are real space. That gets rid of the problem of illusionism and of literal space... which is riddance of one of the salient and most objectionable relics of European art."

Donald Judd Signature


Donald Judd was an American artist, whose rejection of both traditional painting and sculpture led him to a conception of art built upon the idea of the object as it exists in the environment. Judd's works belong to the Minimalist movement, whose goal was to rid art of the Abstract Expressionists' reliance on the self-referential trace of the painter in order to form pieces that were free from emotion. To accomplish this task, artists such as Judd created works comprising of single or repeated geometric forms produced from industrialized, machine-made materials that eschewed the artist's touch. Judd's geometric and modular creations have often been criticized for a seeming lack of content; it is this simplicity, however, that calls into question the nature of art and that posits Minimalist sculpture as an object of contemplation, one whose literal and insistent presence informs the process of beholding.

Key Ideas

Judd's goal was to make objects that stood on their own as part of an expanded field of image making and that did not allude to anything beyond their own physical presence. As a result, his work, along with that of other Minimalist artists, is often called literalist.
Unlike traditional sculpture, which was placed upon a plinth, thus setting it apart as a work of art, Judd's works stand directly on the floor and as a result, force the viewer to confront them according to their own, material existence.
Judd combined the use of highly finished, industrialized materials, such as iron, steel, plastic, and Plexiglas - techniques and methods associated with the Bauhaus School - to give his works an impersonal, factory aesthetic. This served to separate his pieces from those of the Abstract Expressionists, whose emphasis on the artist's touch gave their images a confessional, personal context.
Judd often presented his work in a serialized manner, a strategy that related to the reality of postwar, consumer culture as well as to the standardization and de-subjectifying nature of identical, multiple forms or systems. The multiple was another way to reinforce their materiality. This method was also seen as a part of a more general tendency toward the democratization of art, that is, to make art more accessible to more people, because it was composed of fabricated parts.

Most Important Art

Donald Judd Famous Art

Untitled (1972)

By the 1970s, Judd's "specific objects," as he liked to call these box-like forms that sat directly on the floor, had become, despite their sharp edges and flat color, more complex through his exploration of surface and color. The exterior surface is composed of copper, an industrial material, but one whose warm and reflective surface combines with the richness of the wooden floor as it mirrors its environment. The interior is colored with a highly saturated, red enamel that vibrates in its intensity and contrasts with the static nature of the form in its entirety. The red interior also contrasts with the copper, and yet deepens the viewers' experience by encouraging them to think about the relationship between inside and outside and by asking them to consider the effects of different surface values. Here, the sleekness of the red enamel adds to the seductive aspect of the piece, and may suggest some of the objects, like nail polish or cars, that we choose to purchase as consumers. Moreover, this piece is in some ways the polar opposite of the whole anthropomorphizing tendency that viewers have when they look at sculpture -- the tendency for humans to extend the vertical orientation of their own bodies and see human forms in sculpture, which traditionally was vertically oriented. Instead of seeing in the work a reflection of that usual vertical orientation of the human, organic form, here we have a piece that is more horizontal than vertical and contains inside it empty space rather than "insides" (internal organs).
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Donald Judd Artworks in Focus:



Donald Judd was born on June 3, 1928, in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. He spent much of his early childhood on his grandparents' farm and continued to live in the Midwest with his parents until they finally settled in New Jersey.

Early Training

Judd served in the United States Army in Korea and subsequently attended the College of William and Mary, the Art Students League in New York, and Columbia University, where he obtained a B.S. in Philosophy in 1953. He went on to work toward a master's degree in Art History, studying under such well-known scholars as Rudolf Wittkower and Meyer Schapiro. Between 1959 and 1965, he supported himself by writing criticism for major art magazines, such as Art News, and in 1968, he bought a five-story, cast-iron office building in Soho, which served as his New York residence and studio for the next 25 years.

In the late 1940s, Judd practiced as a painter and then shifted to the medium of the woodcut, whose linear qualities helped him move from figuration to abstraction. By the early 1960s, Judd had completely abandoned the two-dimensional picture plane and began to focus on three-dimensional forms in which the notion of materiality played a key role. In 1964, Judd wrote Specific Objects, a manifesto-like essay calling that was manifesto-like in nature, calling for a rejection of the residual, European value of illusionism and advocating an art based upon tangible materials. Judd aligned himself with other artists working in New York, such as John Chamberlain, Jasper Johns, and Dan Flavin, whose work also incorporated non-traditional materials such as found objects, steel, aluminum, and neon lighting. Like Judd, these artists had begun to recognize the physical environment as an intrinsic aspect of the work and that three-dimensional form was the most effective way to address spatial concerns.

Mature Period

Donald Judd Biography

By 1963, Judd's presence on the international art scene was beginning to take hold and his second solo show was held at the Green Gallery in New York. In 1966, the influential dealer Leo Castelli organized what would be the first in a long series of solo exhibitions for the artist, which ensured his prominence in the New York art scene. From 1962 though 1964, Judd worked as an instructor at Brooklyn College. Judd served as a visiting artist at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire in 1966 before going on to teach sculpture at Yale the following year. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Judd was the recipient of numerous grants and award from such institutions as the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Swedish Institute. In 1968, the Whitney Museum of American Art organized the first retrospective of his work, an event that would establish his importance in the world of contemporary art.

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Donald Judd Biography Continues

In the early 1970s, Judd began to work on increasingly large and complex pieces, such as large, hollow boxes made of steel or copper, often colored with an enameled surface on the inside, which were placed directly on to the floor. By installing his works in this manner, Judd broke with the traditional manner of exhibiting three-dimensional art, which was usually placed on a plinth. Judd's strategy to erase the distance, both physical and psychological, between object and observer served to redefine this inter-relationship; rather than existing as a discrete work of art, Judd's structures form part of the environment and demand to be experienced as part of the viewer's own phenomenological existence.

Late Years and Death

Donald Judd Photo

In 1971, Judd rented a house in Marfa, Texas, whose desert surroundings resonated with the artist's aesthetic and which would form an antidote to his New York City studio. In 1979, with the help of the Dia Foundation, Judd purchased a 340-acre tract of desert land outside of the town, which included abandoned buildings from the former Army Fort D.A. Russell and on which he founded the Chinati Foundation, which opened in 1986. The landscape in Marfa undoubtedly reminded Judd of his childhood home in Missouri and the wide-open spaces equally resonated with his Minimalist aesthetic. Judd was able to expand his visual language into larger forms, often using aluminum or concrete and integrating the works into the environment. In addition, the development of the Chinati Foundation gave Judd the opportunity to permanently install several large-scale works, according to his own aesthetic standards, as well as to create an exhibition space for other like-minded practitioners. In 1984 he also started to design furniture and expanded his materials to include anodized aluminum and acrylic.

The artist died of lymphoma on February 12, 1994, in New York.


Donald Judd was a leader of the Minimalist movement and as such, helped to create an appreciation for the clean lines and uncluttered spaces often favored in interior design. By establishing the Chinati Foundation, Judd established a space that now serves as a museum, artist residency, and research center. In 1976, Judd began to turn his attention beyond Marfa and purchased land in Presidio County close to the Mexican border, where he developed his ideas on rural architecture and land conservation, which have influenced practitioners in this area. Judd's writings are, to this day, seen as the most comprehensive statement of Minimalist art; his work both defined a new lexicon of sculptural concerns and contributed to a revised notion of the process of beholding.

Influences and Connections

Influences on artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Influenced by artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Donald Judd
Interactive chart with Donald Judd's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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View Influences Chart


Dan FlavinDan Flavin
Barnett NewmanBarnett Newman
Piet MondrianPiet Mondrian
Mark RothkoMark Rothko
Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp


Frank StellaFrank Stella
John ChamberlainJohn Chamberlain
Leo CastelliLeo Castelli
Michael FriedMichael Fried


Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism
Modernism and Modern ArtModernism and Modern Art
Donald Judd
Donald Judd
Years Worked: 1948 - 1994


Anish KapoorAnish Kapoor
Julian OpieJulian Opie
David BatchelorDavid Batchelor
Joel ShapiroJoel Shapiro
Richard TuttleRichard Tuttle


Thomas LawsonThomas Lawson
Robert MorrisRobert Morris


Conceptual ArtConceptual Art

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Useful Resources on Donald Judd







The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.


Donald Judd Recomended resource

By David Raskin

Donald Judd: Architecture

By Peter Noever, Brigitte Huck, Donald Judd, and Rudi Fuchs

Donald Judd: Colorist

By Dietmar Elger, Donald Judd, Martin Engler, and William Agee

Donald Judd: The Early Works 1955-1968

By Donald Judd and Thomas Kellein

More Interesting Books about Donald Judd
The Artist's Force Field, Frozen in Time Recomended resource

By Roberta Smith
The New York Times
May 30, 2013

Donald Judd and Marfa

By Hannah Hoel
The Huffington Post
February 13, 2013

What is the Object?

By James Meyer, Lynne Cooke, Mary Heilmann, Mark Godfrey, Richard Wentworth, Liam Gillick, David Musgrave, Jasper Morrison, and Deyan Sudjc
April 2004

Donald Judd, Leading Minimalist Sculptor, Dies at 65 Recomended resource

By Roberta Smith
The New York Times
February 13, 1994

More Interesting Articles about Donald Judd
Donald Judd. Untitled, 1967 (Stack)

Analysis of Work
The Museum of Modern Art

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