Donald Judd

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Selected Press

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The Children of New York City’s Greatest Generation

When you were a child, you likely didn’t watch “Gigi” on the TV in your parents’ townhouse with the Studio 54 impresario Steve Rubell, as New York City’s brightest social and creative lights rang in the new year on the floors below. The novelist Kurt Vonnegut probably didn’t take a liking to you at a social gathering, showing you off to guests as if you were his very own 3-year-old. And it’s virtually certain that even if you did call your own father by his first name, and even if that name happened to be “Don,” your dad was decidedly not the legendary artist Donald Judd, nor did you live in a cast-iron building turned permanent Minimalist art installation in the heart of SoHo, at a time when the neighborhood was not a tony shopping destination but a kind of frontier village — albeit one with loading docks and factories instead of vegetable patches and chicken coops.

Though they might have something of the enchanted quality of a fairy tale, these experiences did, in fact, happen to (respectively) Patricia Herrera Lansing, the daughter of the fashion designer Carolina Herrera; to Zoe Jackson, scion of the actors LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Samuel L. Jackson; and to Flavin and Rainer Judd (named after their father’s fellow Minimalists and friends, the choreographer Yvonne Rainer and the sculptor Dan Flavin). And they happened, crucially, in 1980s New York — a time and place that allowed for an eccentric and productive sociocultural cross-pollination that seems, with every passing year, as the city becomes more expensive and more staid, less and less likely to recur.

For these now-adult children — born at different stages in their parents’ lives, they range in age from 27 to 53 — often first-generation New Yorkers growing up in the then still-gritty, still-weird, still-in-flux East Village or SoHo or TriBeCa or Harlem or even Park Slope, life was significantly not about (or not just about) having famous parents. Rather, it was about witnessing culture making at the closest range possible — from within the family unit — and learning along the way how to become culture makers themselves. And while the privileges that come along with a proximity to glamour and, sometimes, resources, cannot be denied, these children were often exposed to something far rarer and more expansive. They learned at a young age that family could widen to include friends and co-conspirators in both celebration and creative work. And they gathered from both their parents and their parents’ associates that creative work was neither magic nor a chore, but something you never stopped doing, a matter “of passion and choice,” in the words of the writer Nadja Spiegelman, the daughter of cartoonist Art Spiegelman and editor Françoise Mouly. Cultural work was an occupation that was just as, if not more legitimate than, say, practicing law, like those “funny people with briefcases who carried papers,” as Flavin Judd says.

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Rare Donald Judd Paintings Made the Trek From Marfa to Miami

Twentieth-century artist and architect Donald Judd didn’t want his masterpieces traveling around like an artsy circus.

"In Marfa, Texas, he set up 16 buildings with his art as he wanted it to be seen," says Ellen Salpeter, director of the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Miami and Judd Foundation board member. “He was known as the father of the permanently installed space, and it is a pilgrimage and journey to see it.”

In addition to maintaining his wildly artsy compound in Marfa — which displays modernist and period furniture, large-scale architectural projects, early paintings from the '50s and '60s, and other pieces — Judd also had a private living space and studio in New York City, which is now open to guests.

But beyond these permanent houses, some rare items trickle out into museum shows across the nation. And some truly remarkable work, paired with a great backstory, is being housed at the ICA.

The exhibition "Donald Judd: Paintings" presents 14 paintings created by the artist between 1959 and 1961, which were vital transitional years for Judd in his experimentation in form and color. These experimentations ultimately helped form the ways he represented space and color across so many mediums.

As for the paintings themselves, though they might seem simplistic, Judd fans will see some prevailing patterns and colors that were later prevalent in other forms. In addition to showing paintings, the ICA will display one of Judd’s sculptures, Untitled (1964).

“Many of these pieces have not been seen by the public ever, and what an opportunity for us,” says Salpeter, who co-curated the exhibit alongside Judd’s son, Flavin, and the ICA’s chief curator, Alex Gartenfeld. “These pieces were in storage in Texas, and the foundation and Judd family granted us permission to show the work.”
How does this exhibition fit into the ICA’s broader mission and current times?

"Our goal and mission is to present the most important art of our time and to ensure whatever we represent is relevant to the world around us," Salpeter says. "Painting has seen a resurgence. If you go to museums today, it can feel like people stopped painting in the '70s and '80s. I think when the public sees Judd’s work from then, they’ll say, ‘Wow, that is not what I think of when I think of Donald Judd.’ It gives them insight and a new appreciation of everything that’s out there."

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The writings of Donald Judd are triumphantly matter-of-fact. The sculptor, who died in 1994 at the age of sixty-five, was decisive even about his second thoughts and doubts. “Cocksure certainty and squirming uncertainty are both wrong,” he once wrote. “It’s possible to think and act without being simple and fanatic and it’s possible to accept uncertainty, which is nearly everything, quietly.” In the essays that he published over more than three decades, he turned even his equivocations into dictums as he explored subjects that included not only art, architecture, and the art world, but also urban development and national affairs.

What rescues even Judd’s most sweeping pronouncements from crackpot irascibility is the easy, pungent power of his prose. He arranges relatively simple nouns and verbs (and a minimum of adjectives) in sentences and paragraphs that have a plainspoken, workmanlike beauty. Judd’s direct, unequivocal writings are a perfect match for his sculptures, with their precisely calculated angles and unabashed celebration of industrial materials such as plywood, aluminum, and Plexiglas. This fiercely independent artist belongs in a long line of American aesthetes who embraced an unadorned style, including figures as various as Ernest Hemingway, Barnett Newman, Virgil Thomson, and Walker Evans.

Reading Judd’s prose two decades after his death, you will experience, amid the overheated and gaseous atmosphere of the contemporary art world, an invigorating blast of cold, clear air. Donald Judd Writings, although not the first collection of his prose, is the first to span his entire career. Edited by Flavin Judd, the artist’s son, and Caitlin Murray, the book includes, in addition to previously published work, selections from notes that Judd made over the years. All the way through, you hear the voice of a man who was never afraid to say no. It was not the refusal of an outsider, however, at least not in his earlier years of writing and exhibiting. Judd’s no is that of the dedicated avant-gardist—the man who leads the charge. This no is fundamentally positive and celebratory—a cry for the new.

Judd believed that the search for the new involved, both in his own work and the work of his contemporaries, a rejection of the conventions of painting and sculpture in favor of new forms, which were often aggressively curious or idiosyncratic and startlingly sized or scaled. Judd refused to favor either representational or abstract images. He was an enthusiast for Claes Oldenburg’s oversized quotidian objects, Lee Bontecou’s shaped canvas convexities, Lucas Samaras’s bedecked and bejeweled boxes, and Dan Flavin’s fluorescent geometries. He gathered these variegated works by his contemporaries under a singular rubric when he titled one of his most famous essays “Specific Objects” (1964).

Although Judd had a great deal to say about many varieties of art, architecture, and design, he was a man with one big idea. “Most works finally have one quality,” he wrote in “Specific Objects.” “The thing as a whole, its quality as a whole, is what is interesting.” In Judd’s grandest sculptures he certainly proved his point. I’m thinking especially of the hundred aluminum boxes gathered together in two buildings in Marfa, Texas, and the richly polychromed wall-hanging compositions of his later years.

While everybody who cares about the arts will agree that unity and complexity are both qualities to be admired, there is a fundamental divide between those who crave a complexity that may risk disunity and those who crave a unity that may give short shrift to complexity. Judd, although his heart was always with unity, knew that it was enriched by variety. His hundred aluminum boxes, although alike in their external dimensions, are subdivided inside in many different ways. His polychromed wall-hanging compositions dazzle with their playful, unpredictable color orchestrations.

In an essay entitled “Symmetry” (1985), Judd declared that “art, for myself, and architecture, for everyone, should always be symmetrical except for a good reason.” But he immediately went on to observe that “symmetry itself allows variation,” and that there are forms of symmetry that are “very close to asymmetry.” There are intricacies amid Judd’s simplicities. That’s what gives both his sculpture and his writing their staying power.

Judd grew up in New Jersey, served in Korea in 1946–1947, and attended the Art Students League and Columbia University, where he studied philosophy and graduated cum laude in 1953. The first three essays in Donald Judd Writings, previously unpublished, were written while he was doing graduate work in art history at Columbia later in the 1950s. They reveal a mind and a style almost fully formed. In these essays about a Peruvian wood carving, a marble relief by the seventeenth-century French sculptor Pierre Puget, and an Abstract Expressionist painting by the New York artist James Brooks, there is already the methodical attentiveness and the razor-sharp analysis.

Judd abhors a mystery. He demands clarity. In describing an impossibly crowded Baroque battle scene, he cuts straight through the pileup of human beings in various states of stress, arguing that the painting is “organized through a virtual grid of diagonals of varying directions and prominence.” Judd took at least one course with the great art historian Meyer Schapiro at Columbia, which leads me to wonder if he was somehow influenced by Schapiro’s bold but methodical mind—by his combination of boundless curiosity, strenuous critique, and analytical precision.

“I leapt into the world an empiricist,” Judd wrote in 1981 in an essay about the Russian avant-garde. In the graduate school essay about James Brooks, he quoted David Hume’s ideas about “the nature of substance,” and commented that “much present American painting seems related to the indigenous pragmatic philosophy, especially Peirce, and its source, the similar British Empiricists.” Judd began with an empiricist’s taste for the concrete, the particular, and the specific. That taste never left him. He wanted to nail things down. He began his long discussion of Brooks’s lyrical abstraction with a simple declaration: “In the contemporary dichotomy of the dispersion or concentration of form, Brooks’s work is mediate.” In the next few sentences, he assigned particular places within this contemporary dichotomy not only to Brooks but also to Jackson Pollock, Bradley Walker Tomlin, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, and a Frenchman, Pierre Soulages. Judd, still a student, was very much in control—a young, masterful mind, sizing up the situation.

Beginning in the late 1950s, when many writers were still inclined to cast what was being referred to as the new American painting of Pollock, de Kooning, and Rothko in a romantic light, Judd argued that these artists weren’t dreamers and mythologizers but realists and pragmatists, albeit of an altogether different kind. Writing about Pollock in 1967, he complained that most discussions of Pollock were “loose and unreasonable.” No doubt thinking of the writers who had associated Pollock’s mazelike dripped canvases with mystical cosmologies or the hurly-burly of urban life, Judd observed that “almost any kind of statement can be derived from the work: philosophical, psychological, sociological, political.” He wanted to distinguish Pollock’s paintings from the expressionism of Soutine and van Gogh, which he saw as “portray[ing] immediate emotions.” This, so he explained, “occurs through a sequence of observing, feeling, and recording.” Pollock, Judd believed, wasn’t concerned with emotions but with “sensations.” Emotions were evolutionary; sensations were immediate. “The dripped paint in most of Pollock’s paintings is dripped paint,” he wrote. “It’s that sensation, completely immediate and specific, and nothing modifies it.”

For Judd writing became a way of reasoning his way through the world—of reconciling the singularity of his own artistic vision with the chaotic heterogeneity of the art and ideas that he encountered everywhere he turned. When he first collected his writings in 1975, he claimed that much if not most of what he had written between 1959 and 1965 for Arts magazine he had written “as a mercenary and would never have written…otherwise.” Writing had been little more than a way to eke out a living. “Since there were no set hours and since I could work at home it was a good part-time job.” I don’t think this can be taken at face value. While Judd was surely frustrated by having to write short reviews of the work of artists who interested him little if at all, there was a wonderful steadiness about his eye and his mind as he chronicled the sea changes that were overtaking the New York art world in the early 1960s. It was a tumultuous time, with contemporary art acquiring a growing prestige even as many artists and writers worried that the old modern ideas and ideals that had nourished the Abstract Expressionists were proving unworkable and perhaps totally irrelevant. Judd was eager to sort it all out and find a way forward.

Critical essays and reviews resurrected decades after they were first written can convey the atmosphere of a time, but they can also feel dim and obscure—the stakes once so high now registering as little more than stale skirmishes, with yesterday’s battle lines all but erased. I can understand readers dismissing as hardly more than ill-tempered backbiting and gossip Judd’s characterization of Clement Greenberg’s views as “little league fascism” or Michael Fried’s opinions as “pedantic pseudo-philosophical analysis.” But if Judd’s rhetoric sometimes reached a fever pitch, it was not without reason. A great deal was at stake as the authority of the Abstract Expressionists waned. Judd was one of a number of artists who felt the need to speak out and found themselves doubling as eloquent critics. In Art News and The Nation, the painter Fairfield Porter looked toward a revival of representational painting that might build on the strengths of de Kooning’s painterly abstraction. And writing alongside Judd in Arts, Sidney Tillim, although a painter little known today, vigorously articulated the sense shared by many that Abstract Expressionism had mostly degenerated into mannerism and affectation.

For all that Judd believed in the unity, wholeness, and singularity of works of art, he was equally convinced that the conditions that invited creation were variable, diverse, and unpredictable. In both “Specific Objects” and another essay written in 1964, “Local History,” Judd rejected any unified theory of the history of art. This was the heart of his disagreement with Greenberg—as well as with Fried, who even as he was extending and transforming Greenberg’s ideas launched a direct assault on Judd in his essay “Art and Objecthood.” Judd sensed an underlying and unwanted Hegelian idealism in Greenberg’s belief that any authentic artistic style, as Greenberg put it, “had its own inherent laws of development.” “The history of art and art’s condition at any time,” Judd wrote in 1964, “are pretty messy. They should stay that way.”

Judd disliked the simplification implicit in a stylistic label such as Abstract Expressionism. Indeed, he rejected the labels that were ascribed to his own work and that of close friends, such as Minimalism and ABC Art. “‘Crisis,’ ‘revolutionary,’ and the like,” he observed, “were similar attempts to simplify the situation, but through its historical location instead of its nature.” Judd, whatever the unified look of his own work, applauded the pluralism of the early 1960s. He saw a situation in which “a lot of new artists” had “developed their work as simply their own work. There were almost no groups and there were no movements.” He believed not in world history but in what he called local history.

Judd had his first one-man show at the Green Gallery in New York in 1963, at a time when he was as active as a critic as he would ever be. He exhibited a number of works that hung on the wall and behaved rather like paintings, even as their curved and convex edges, insistently symmetrical compositions, and elements of galvanized iron and aluminum put gallerygoers on notice that they were dealing not with metaphors but with actualities. Perhaps even more arresting were a few works that Judd set on the floor. With their blunt, carpentered wooden shapes, they suggested enigmatic inventions not yet under copyright. The most striking was a right angle made of two pieces of wood painted cadmium red, with a black pipe fitted between them and also right-angled, so as to create a pokerfaced juxtaposition of right-angled red wood and right-angled black pipe.

The inscrutability of Judd’s work, which some might be tempted to describe as a Platonic cool, could more accurately be described as an impassioned particularity. The key to it is to be found in the distinction between emotions and sensations that Judd made when he wrote about Pollock. From the very first, he wanted to present gallerygoers with surprising sensations. In the early work exhibited at the Green Gallery, it was sensations of rectilinearity, right-angledness, curvedness, and redness. Judd turned his back on narrative or storytelling, which abstract artists from Kandinsky and Brancusi to de Kooning and David Smith had not so much jettisoned as reimagined in nonnaturalistic ways. Judd hungered for something sharp, clear, and immediate. He was for being, not becoming.

In 1989, looking back to the idealism of the early twentieth century, Judd remarked that “Mondrian tried to keep the larger view in mind, while I, we, are not sure that there is a larger view.” That “we” is striking—a declaration of a communal sense of diminishment. For all the aloof, mandarin elegance of his art, Judd was in many respects a characteristic figure of the later 1960s and early 1970s, when the initial hopes of the Civil Rights movement and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society had given way to despair following the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Robert Kennedy, the traumas of the inner cities, the struggles of the antiwar movement, and the ever-growing radicalization of the left. Judd’s work was fueled by a determination to create something extraordinarily lucid in a world where confusion reigned. He had no choice but to embrace the particular and enlarge it—ennoble it.

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Like so many men and women of his generation, he believed in beginning again, rethinking every aspect of human experience. There is something in Judd’s self-reliant, can-do attitude that brings to mind the sensibility of the Whole Earth Catalog, which was first published in 1968. Judd’s imagination, in which an instinctive skepticism is shot through with flashes of hope, makes him an exemplary artistic figure to contemplate in considering those troubled times.

In the first flush of fame, when some New York real estate was still relatively affordable, Judd bought a cast-iron building at 101 Spring Street. The year was 1968, decades before SoHo became the shopping mall it is today. Judd was one among a group of artists who were determined to preserve the old industrial neighborhoods of downtown New York and revitalize them as artists’ neighborhoods. Here was local history in action. “Everything that can be stopped, started, run by a community should be run by that community,” he wrote in 1971. “The decision to delegate something to a wider area, say the city or the county, should be very carefully made.” Judd had an almost utopian vision of human society; he wanted to get back to basics.

The building he bought was a beautiful, simple structure, five stories high, on the corner of Spring and Mercer Streets, with the cast-iron grid of the façade framing expansive planes of glass. Twenty years later, he wrote lovingly about this structure, designed by Nicholas Whyte, “whose only other cast-iron building is in Brazil.” He noted the ruinous state of the interior when he bought it, and how he carefully restored it. He characterized the building as “a right angle of glass. The façade is the most shallow perhaps of any in the area and so is the furthest forerunner of the curtain wall.”

He described it as if it were one of his own sculptures. “The given circumstances were very simple: the floors must be open; the right angle of windows on each floor must not be interrupted; and any changes must be compatible.” In this building, which Judd speculated had been used for the manufacture and sale of some sort of cloth, he found an aesthetic that somehow prefigured his own. He argued for this not as some grand historical continuum but as a particular affinity—an artist of the later twentieth century sensing some connection with an architect of a century earlier.

“Finally,” Judd wrote in 1988, “the only ground you have is the ground you stand on.” It was that search for something steady—some foundation on which to build and live—that inspired not only Judd’s fascination with downtown New York but also his increasing involvement with the life and landscape of the American Southwest. He was already becoming interested in cacti and Native American ceramics and rugs in the early 1970s, when he began looking for a place where he might spend time and work and perhaps display some of his larger compositions along with some by his friends. He found his way to Marfa, Texas, a town south of El Paso, near the Mexican border. In an essay about Marfa that he wrote in 1985, Judd brought a laconic passion to his description of the land. “The area of West Texas was fine, mostly high rangeland dropping to desert along the river, with mountains over the edge in every direction. There were few people and the land was undamaged.” For Judd, this measured, steady description was high praise indeed.

Ever entrepreneurial when it came to finding a way forward with his work, Judd soon enough bought a number of buildings in the practically abandoned town of Marfa and then took over an old army base, which he turned into the Chinati Foundation. Much of the writing of his later years—whether done in Texas, New York, or Switzerland, where he also spent time—concerns his evolving vision of places to work, exhibit art, and live. He became interested in designing furniture and architecture and wrote about the differences between functional and nonfunctional objects, often looking back with a critical eye to the experiments of the Bauhaus and the De Stijl movement in Europe. He sounded off about the state of contemporary architecture, praising Louis Kahn and raging against the postmodernism that Philip Johnson was advocating for at the time. Johnson became a bête noire. Even his Miesian Glass House, almost universally admired, came in for criticism; Judd called it “discreetly vulgar.”

Some of the most interesting of Judd’s later writings are about artists whom he admired and whose work he eventually exhibited at the Chinati Foundation. He wrote about artists of his generation and devoted a long essay to an enormous horseshoe, Monument to the Last Horse, by Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, which was set up at Chinati in the 1990s. His taste remained unpredictable. He took a great interest in a Swiss geometric painter, Richard Paul Lohse, who has remained relatively unknown in the United States. And at a time when Josef Albers had come to be seen by many as a somewhat outdated figure, Judd embraced his work with considerable vigor.

The closing essay in the new collection, “Some Aspects of Color in General and Red and Black in Particular” (1993), is a magnificent piece of writing in which Judd reaches far and wide as he explains the thinking behind his own opulently colored late wall-hanging works. He explains: “The last real picture of real objects in a real world was painted by Courbet.” The real, the immediate, is always what he’s after. “Color is like material,” he writes at one point. “It is one way or another, but it obdurately exists. Its existence as it is is the main fact and not what it might mean, which may be nothing.” Here we see the core of Judd’s vision, a purity that’s precisely not Platonic, that’s anti-ideal—a purity of the real. Thinking about Mondrian, Malevich, and Van Doesburg, he finds himself wondering why “it is idealistic—even what does that mean—to want to do something new and beneficial, practical also, in a new civilization.” Judd wanted to liberate the search for the new from the search for some ideal.

The new volume, beautifully designed, would have certainly pleased Donald Judd. There are more than eight hundred pages of text and more than a hundred of illustrations, contained in a format so compact and well constructed that it can easily be held in the hand. The bright orange canvas covers are strong but flexible. And the orange is beautifully set off by the cerulean blue endpapers, for an effect that has some of the drama of Judd’s own late polychrome works. The pages of his private notes, often quite brief, are a welcome addition to the writings we already know. They offer a different kind of reading experience—quick, glancing, sometimes witty. Judd can illuminate an entire era in a few sentences. This is what he has to say about Bernini, that commanding figure of the Roman Baroque: “Bernini made religion, supposedly the nature of the world, personal. And so religious art and architecture ended; after that it was sentimental and academic.” Judd is suggesting that a genius can, all at once, brilliantly transform and catastrophically terminate a tradition.

I wish this new collection included some of the short reviews that Judd published in Arts in the early 1960s, because they reflect the reach of his imagination. Although they are part of the Complete Writings 1959–1975—which is now back in print—they would have helped give a fuller picture of Judd’s thinking in what is bound to become the essential collection of his prose. Those short reviews are certainly of more significance than the seventy-page critique of the collector Giuseppe Panza included here, in which Judd lays out an altogether credible indictment of this Italian who took it upon himself to make unauthorized versions of some of his work. Judd in high dudgeon is fun to read, but his vehemence is most exciting when grounded in deep thought. When he entitled a two-part essay “Complaints,” he knew that he could get away with that almost self-mocking title because he was a person who didn’t just complain. There was substance to his gripes. He was spot on when he complained about the banality with which his art and the art of his friends was exhibited in most galleries and museums. The eloquent installations of his own work in Marfa prove that he knew of what he spoke. Judd was a visionary—a visionary of the real.

Reading Judd, I am reminded of the prophetic voices of certain nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century artists and writers—of Gauguin, Kandinsky, Pound, and Lawrence. Whatever Judd’s skepticism about the idealism of early-twentieth-century abstraction, he admired the great modern visionaries, especially Malevich and Mondrian, and he brought some of the quickening power of their manifestos into his own writing. Prophetic figures who castigate the societies that formed them are almost inevitably paradoxical figures. Judd was certainly aware that a prophet can set off complex, even masochistic reactions in his contemporaries, who embrace (or at least half embrace) his criticisms as a way of expiating what they may be inclined to regard as their own sins. What is perhaps Judd’s most famous diatribe, the two-part “A Long Discussion Not About Master-Pieces but Why There Are So Few of Them,” originally published in Art in America in 1983 and 1984, can still send a shiver of excitement and confusion down the spines of people who first read it more than thirty years ago. No wonder Judd had an ambivalent relationship with so many critics, curators, and collectors. Even as he gleefully pointed out their mistakes, they lionized him and made him a wealthy man.

Judd began his “Long Discussion” with a line from Gertrude Stein: “Everything is against them.” Judd was emboldened by a battle. But in his art, his writing, and his life, he was never anything less than a man of affirmations. He affirmed the astonishing beauty of what some might dismiss as ordinary things: a box carpentered of plywood; an aluminum construction painted in shades of red, yellow, blue, orange, and black; a simple declarative sentence. He reminds us that the ordinary can be extraordinary. If a man can be a pragmatic utopian, that man is Donald Judd.

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Speeding in a pickup truck along an unpaved road in the Chihuahuan Desert, Flavin Judd, son of the late artist Donald Judd, lets out a hoot of delight as the horizon ahead is filled by the raw expanse of the Chinati Mountains. “This is why Don came to Texas,” he says. “Marfa”—the lonely cattle town that Judd transformed into an art pilgrimage site—“was really just a grocery store and a school for him.” Glimpsed through the cracked windshield are cattle grazing in fields dotted with cactus and buzzards soaring overhead. For the entire 90-minute drive, there’s not another car to be seen. Wearing a weather-beaten Stetson, denim jacket and cowboy boots, Flavin, 49, has inherited his father’s passion for this radical emptiness. The view is so poetic that he almost slows down. “This is the most dangerous stretch of road,” he notes at one point, as the speedometer hovers at 90 mph. “It’s where the deer hang out.” Laughing, he presses his foot to the pedal and breaks 100.

Behind a cattle gate stands Casa Perez, one of Donald Judd’s three ranches on the 40,000 acres of land that he collectively called Ayala de Chinati. Framed by the bluffs of the Pinto Canyon, the plain adobe structure was built in the early 1900s. Beneath the windmill sits a circular water tank with a wooden deck, where Flavin and his younger sister, Rainer, used to swim as kids. “Just watch out for rattlesnakes,” he says before pulling out an old key to unlock the metal grilles over the doors and windows.

Inside the two-bedroom ranch house, there is a sense of casual domesticity, as if Judd might have just stepped out on an errand—which in a sense is true, since he left Marfa on a trip to Germany in late 1993 with no idea that he was terminally ill with cancer and would never return. Next to the back door is a small bookshelf with tomes that reveal his myriad interests. ("A History of Ottoman Architecture, Gaudí, Birds of Texas, Stars and Planets.") As with all the buildings Judd acquired, he left the basic structure untouched but transformed the interior into a bright, open space. In this rustic isolation, it’s startling to see one of Judd’s signature box sculptures on the crisp white wall. During his 40-year career, he created over 3,000 artworks, most of them untitled, a catalog headache for curators. One renowned piece consists of 100 enormous milled-aluminum blocks displayed in two former artillery sheds at Marfa’s Chinati Foundation; his passion for the box was such that a popular bumper sticker souvenir reads I █ JUDD. No less striking is Judd’s own furniture. In the ranch house’s homey kitchen, where black frying pans hang over a rustic stove, stands a wooden counter he designed with the same clean, strong lines and rigorous craftsmanship as his sculpture. There is also a wooden daybed crafted in a raw style that has since been dubbed “Texas rough.” The sparse layout—the furniture is deliberately pulled away from the walls—makes the pieces seem like site-specific works. “Judd’s furniture was born of necessity, but each piece is a dissertation on proportion worthy of a Renaissance master,” says Michael Govan, CEO and director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which acquired, in conjunction with the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Garden, a desk and chairs Judd made for Flavin. “You could not ask for something more simple—the wood is still the same width as when it came from the lumberyard—but it is transformed by his compositional intelligence. It’s not as abstract as his art, since you actually sit on his chairs, but there is the same beauty.”

“I would put Judd’s furniture together with his sculpture, his writings, his houses,” says curator Ann Temkin, who is overseeing a major Judd retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art when new construction there is complete. “The idea that a whole room would contain one simple steel box and Judd would consider it full has had a huge influence on the architecture and design world over the last 25 years.”

Despite the furniture’s influence, since Judd’s death in 1994, its availability for purchase has remained a well-kept secret in the art world. Over the years, almost every high-end design company on the planet has made offers to reproduce it, but the not-for-profit Judd Foundation—which was established upon the artist’s death to safeguard his property and artistic legacy and is overseen by Flavin and Rainer, 46—has always declined. Instead, it continued to produce his designs strictly on a made-to-order basis, resulting in the ultimate bespoke furniture: The metal pieces take 12 weeks to make in Judd’s foundry in Switzerland; the wooden versions, created mostly in California by one of Judd’s favorite craftsmen, Jeff Jamieson, take a minimum of 18 weeks. Each of Judd’s designs can be done in 21 colors of anodized aluminum or copper and a variety of woods—for a total of 345 combinations for metal or over 900 combinations for wood—which are listed in two fat binders kept in his former loft home in New York, 101 Spring Street, now a combination Judd Foundation office, museum and shrine. The popular daybed costs $12,600, while a wooden desk with chairs is $14,500. (The pieces produced when Judd was still alive, known to aficionados as “pre-’94” or “lifetime furniture,” are valued much higher, with some pieces fetching prices in the hundreds of thousands; one stainless-steel coffee table from the early ’70s sold at Sotheby’s in 2011 for $506,500.)

Starting next month, for the first time, the Judd Foundation is making available pieces that will be ready to purchase directly from inventory, meaning that impatient Judd fans can acquire them without a lengthy wait time. For the first release, the foundation selected the Corner Chair and the Library Stool as iconic pieces that Judd used in Marfa. More will be added each year. Anodized aluminum was chosen for the $6,900 Corner Chair, while the wood for the $1,900 Library Stool is pine, an homage to the first pieces Judd made in Marfa from the materials that were on hand. Also in May, an exhibition of Judd’s “pre-’94” furniture will be on view at the foundation’s New York headquarters at 101 Spring Street.

The renewed attention to Judd’s furniture provides more than just a curious footnote to the life of one of the 20th century’s most significant American artists. It also gives insight into his complex character and his grandiose vision in Marfa. “There was no separation between Judd’s art and life,” says Jenny Moore, director of the Chinati Foundation. According to his children, the desire to live with his own designs grew from his rejection of the strip-mall culture that he felt was being imposed on American society by corporations, along with a deluge of disposable, dispiritingly ugly objects. “Don took the way things looked seriously,” says Flavin. “There is a reason for everything, and it’s all interconnected.”

Judd bought 101 Spring Street in 1968 for a modest $68,000. Each floor of 101, as the 19th-century factory is familiarly known, has enormous windows and soaring ceilings, creating an exhilarating sense of space, within which every piece of furniture and art is meticulously placed. There is the same elegant morsa, or prosciutto holder, as in Marfa, the same Dean & Deluca olive oil bottles. It was here that Judd created his first piece of furniture in 1970, a bed built a few inches off the floor, despite the inconvenience for his then-wife, choreographer Julie Finch, who was pregnant at the time. “It was hell,” Finch says, laughing as she recalls having to roll over and make the bed before she got up, since she couldn’t reach it while standing. She never asked Judd why he had made it so low and large. “It was very elegant in the room. Why would he consult me? He was designing a bed!” Furniture was already a serious business: A fight over a brown corduroy sofa Finch bought from Bloomingdale’s was one of the most tumultuous in a volatile marriage, the kids remember. (The couch is still in their mother’s possession, they add. “It’s actually really nice,” Rainer says.)

In 1977, Judd made the move to Marfa. By then, he was renowned for his ever-more-monolithic abstract sculptures—he was only 39 when he had a major show at the Whitney—but had become disillusioned with the New York art scene, which he described as “harsh and glib.” In SoHo, gentrification had begun, galleries were sprouting, tourists were arriving in droves, and Judd, a shy man, found his celebrity a burden. Finch recalls people stopping him in the street to make comments. “There was a lot of envy of his fame,” she says. “Other artists were resentful. So he just stopped walking around SoHo.” On a creative level, Judd had rejected the gallery system, in which his work was shown only for a short time in less-than-ideal spaces and sometimes even damaged during installation. He had a vision of finding a remote site where his work could rest permanently.

The choice of West Texas has become part of the Judd legend. He first considered Baja California, and then turned to the high grasslands of Presidio County, the emptiest corner of Texas, which he had first seen in 1946 as a young G.I. on his way to Korea. (When the bus stopped in Van Horn, he famously sent a telegram to his mother: DEAR MOM VAN HORN TEXAS. 1260 POPULATION. NICE TOWN BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY MOUNTAINS LOVE=DON.) Twenty-five years later, in 1971, he came across Marfa by chance. “There was no plan,” Flavin says. (In one essay, Judd says that he might have chosen Australia had he visited it earlier.) When a military base, which had been set up in the early 1900s, and an Army airfield closed after World War II, Marfa lost perhaps half its population. Land and buildings were cheap, and Judd had funds.

In the following years, he bought eight properties within the town itself, including an abandoned bank, supermarket and beauty salon as well as the three ranches in brush country. Soon they were converted into his art studio, architecture office, galleries and library, employing over 50 people. None of these personal spaces were intended to be seen by the public. (“He was building it for himself,” Flavin says; his father was creating “different buildings for different parts of his brain. Think of Marfa as one big house with the structures as different rooms.”) The heart of this self-contained world was known as The Block, where Flavin and Rainer lived until high school. According to those who visited in the ’80s, there was a sense of entering a different dimension presided over by Judd. Locals still like to reminisce about the artist’s difficult ways, his drinking, his fits of fury, as well as his crackling intelligence and charm.

Not everyone was welcoming. West Texas was still trapped in the conservative ’50s, and many of the old rancher and Border Patrol residents looked askance at Judd’s ponytail and free-spirited family. (“We were the hippie, Commie f—s,” recalls Flavin.) Still, Judd moved to Marfa full time in 1977, coinciding with an acrimonious divorce with Finch that included Judd picking up the kids after school one afternoon in New York and whisking them to Texas, from where he conducted a custody battle that he ultimately won.

Rainer and Flavin are today so close that they sometimes seem like telepathic twins, finishing each other’s sentences or giving the punch lines to each other’s jokes. They grew up discussing philosophy around the dinner table in The Block and still enjoy bouncing abstract ideas back and forth, probing them with restless curiosity. They also have a playful sense of humor. For much of the time talking about their father (whom they have always called “Don” rather than “Dad”), they sit on a couch in a friend’s house playing with her son’s Legos, joking that they feel like they are in a therapy session. (Flavin, who is named for Judd’s close friend Dan Flavin, has three children with his wife Michèle—Miuccia, Lysandre, and Pascal—and is based in Los Angeles, while Rainer lives in New York.)

They explain that Judd’s decision to make furniture in Texas was a direct response to a practical need. “The furniture you could buy in Marfa was so, so, so, so, so bad that he couldn’t look at it,” says Rainer. Judd also reacted against his parents’ overstuffed suburban décor in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, and yearned for the simplicity of his grandparents’ rural lifestyle. “They were farmers, so they just had the stuff they needed, damn it, and they weren’t going to pretend to be anything they weren’t,” Flavin says. One of Judd’s favorite dictums was, “A good chair is a good chair.”

When they moved to Marfa, Judd decided to make beds for the kids, among only a few pieces he built with his own hands. “He was not a natural carpenter,” says Rainer. “He was not what you would call a handy dude. But that allowed him to excel in collaboration. He was really good at getting people to trust themselves and use whatever craftsmanship they had, to take a risk.” Soon he hired two local brothers to execute his designs. Desks, daybeds, chairs, bookshelves and tables followed as he needed them.

Judd had already spent years studying “scale and proportion and harmony and even our needs in regard to light and space, the psychological effects of how much ceiling you have over you,” says Rainer. “He had a Ph.D. in all these subjects by the time he started making furniture.” Its popularity in art circles followed naturally as the first intrepid visitors to Marfa saw and admired the pieces. In 1984, Judd expanded into metal furniture, although he always distinguished between his art and the utilitarian pieces. These were not released in editions but were instead individually numbered and stamped, and unlike his immaculate artworks, they were made to be used and touched, gaining a patina of age.

It’s hard now to remember just how radical Judd’s furniture designs were at the time, inspiring several exhibitions during the ’80s and early ’90s in New York and Europe. Not everyone in the art world was adulatory; there was a sense that Judd was outside his field. “There was a whiny article,” Flavin recalls. “It was like: ‘We had to suffer through Dan Flavin’s drawings, and now we have to suffer through Donald Judd’s furniture.’ It was considered, ‘Why are you guys doing this? You shouldn’t be doing this—you’re artists!’ ”

But Judd approached the furniture with utmost seriousness. Govan recalls visiting him in Marfa in the early ’90s and seeing the latest drawings scattered across his desk. As with his art, the fabrication process itself was a key element. “Judd used materials straight from the factory—industrially produced materials—and added the quality of the handmade to them,” Govan says. (One of his most radical, and influential, innovations in the ’60s was to argue that an artist’s work could be physically made by others, as in the workshops of Raphael.) He created elegant furniture from humble plywood. “The clarity of thinking about modern design icons was amazing,” says Govan. “He studied all the great modernist furniture makers, and he was definitely competing with them. Besting them at times.”

Neither of the Judd children expected to be running a foundation in their father’s honor. His death at the age of 65 came as a complete shock. The first news of his illness came over the phone from Germany in 1993. “Don said, ‘I’m going to get a biopsy,’ ” says Flavin. “I said, ‘What the hell is that?’ ” Judd’s growing sense that something was wrong—the doctor in Marfa had told him he had a stomach bug and not to worry—turned out to be correct: He was suffering from advanced lymphoma. Three months later, he died in New York. Judd never saw Marfa again.

Taking over Judd’s Texan empire “definitely was not on my agenda,” says Rainer, who was 23 at the time. She and Flavin, then 26, were surprised to learn that they had been named as executors in Judd’s will back when they were both under 10. “I knew we were supposed to have conversations about what he wanted when he died, but it was very abstract—‘some day in the future....’ I didn’t even know the word executor.” Judd himself had not considered his own mortality. “He thought Marfa shouldn’t be destroyed,” she says. “But he certainly didn’t set it up for the public in the future after he died. He didn’t want to think about that.” Suddenly, Rainer and Flavin were sorting out Judd’s sprawling estate, which was in financial disarray, and sorting through Judd’s drawings, letters, notes and papers. If handled badly, there was a good chance that Judd’s entire pharaonic project in Marfa might have to be abandoned. “I didn’t know what it entailed, didn’t know how to get from A to Z,” says Flavin. “But I found out it wasn’t going to be easy.”

Each decision on restoring Judd’s interiors, for example, meant intellectually re-engaging with their father. This can have its emotional limits, as Flavin found recently when editing his father’s critical essays, which were often scrawled in near-illegible pencil script. “Going through the writing was like sitting with him and reliving all these conversations,” he says. “Which was beautiful. It was bizarre. It was like visiting him for three weeks. But the problem is that you get to the end of the notes and that’s it.”

The Marfa properties managed by the Judd Foundation cover 90,000 square feet—an area larger than the exhibition spaces in the new Whitney Museum in New York. Some can be visited by the public by appointment, while others remain off-limits. Seeing them all is like a tour of Judd’s psyche, with the furniture left just as he used it. In the Architecture Studio, the former bank, his sandals and a flashlight still sit by the daybed he used for naps, and his last drawing folders lie on the desks under colored chunks of mineral used as paperweights. In a cupboard are a Greek helmet and a Luristani dagger he picked up on his travels; a favorite Rembrandt etching is framed in an alcove. Judd turned the nearby Cobb House, a humble adobe-style residence from the 1920s, into a private gallery for his youthful paintings from the ’50s, which he called “sophomoric abstractions,” and the Whyte Building, once a storage room for the local five-and-dime, into a space for his paintings from the ’60s. (Soon his canvases began to take on a third dimension, extending from the wall, before he abandoned painting and moved on to sculpture.) The former Safeway supermarket became his cavernous art studio, littered with Judd’s unfinished works and color codes. (One favored color is listed as Harley-Davidson Hi-Fi Blue.)

The Block complex remains the emotional core of Judd’s world. Protected by an adobe wall, its six buildings and gravel courtyard once resounded with the noise of children playing in the pool, wandering farm animals and a pet German shepherd. Now silent, it houses his private galleries with his favorite artworks, a Dan Flavin fluorescent sculpture and a massive library that includes the Icelandic sagas in the original tongue, even though Judd could not read a word. Among the personal touches are a row of plum trees planted at Rainer’s request—Judd disliked trees—and a set of Scottish bagpipes he was learning to play.

An important piece of Judd’s legacy is the Chinati Foundation, a museum with 34 structures scattered over 340 acres, most of it the old Army base on the edge of town, Fort D.A. Russell. One of its hangars contains the famed 100 metal boxes, each one slightly different and gleaming in the crystalline Texan sun. In fields outside, a series of 15 concrete boxes frames the bare horizon. Many visitors still find the works to be coolly impersonal. “Judd rejected the Romantic idea that an artist’s psyche is somehow revealed or transmitted through what he or she did,” says Temkin of MoMA. “Judd didn’t care about expression or emotion. It was hard for a lot of people to handle. It still is, all these decades later.” Although dubbed the “high priest of minimalism,” Judd never liked the label, which he felt bunched together a wide variety of very different artists and denied their warmth and the craftsmanship involved in their work. “The term made their art sound reductive,” says Temkin, “when they saw it as complex and full.” Despite accusations of megalomania, Judd considered Marfa a place for permanent exhibitions of works by like-minded friends, including Robert Irwin and John Chamberlain. “A number of American artists at the time were going into the desert, but they were creating situations for their own work specifically,” says Moore, the Chinati director. “Judd extended the invitation to other artists, on a scale not possible anywhere else. Marfa set a standard.”

It’s hardly surprising that Rainer and Flavin are nostalgic for the Marfa of their youth, when only 10 visitors might drift in annually and every October their father would host a big party for locals and art world friends called Open House weekend. “There would be 50 people staying in our house. There was no disjointedness. There was one bonfire and one place to eat—it was all one,” says Rainer. Marfa still has the feel of a dusty cattle town: The railway line runs through the center, so conversation is often stopped by the roar of passing freight trains. Getting there is almost as much of an expedition as it was in the ’70s, involving flights to El Paso and a meandering three-hour drive along the Rio Grande. Yet the utter isolation that Judd relished began to change around 2000, according to Rainer and Flavin, as visitors from Houston, L.A. and New York put the town on the international art map. The “new” Marfa exists alongside the old in what can seem a parallel universe. There are galleries, coffee shops and swank restaurants. Meanwhile, the sleek Hotel Saint George looks as though it was teleported in from Santa Monica, California, even though hardened locals confess their relief that its bar was one of the first places in town to serve food seven days a week.

Visitors to the Chinati Foundation have increased from 12,500 in 2013 to nearly 40,000 in 2016 and as a public institution it is evolving to meet the changes. But the Judd Foundation’s aim is to keep its fragile spaces intact rather than to increase numbers. One model for the foundation was Baxter State Park in Maine, which was purchased by the state’s former governor Percival P. Baxter beginning in the 1930s and given to the state on condition that access be limited. “In the deed, he said that the plants and animals would always be more important than the people visiting the park,” Rainer says. “That influenced our strategic plan: Preservation of the spaces has priority over public access.”

Rainer and Flavin hope that the furniture offering this year will expand the understanding of the artist and his legacy. It’s also a testament to their stubborn patience. After his untimely death, some at the foundation argued that the furniture was a distraction. There was pressure, Rainer says, “to pare things away, to simplify things, because we had so much to do.” But she and Flavin decided to maintain low-key production, which kept the relationships open with the fabricators. “If people could find us, they could order it,” Flavin says. For over two decades, the furniture line remained in the distant background. The ’90s were devoted to securing finances, with an auction in 2006 creating an endowment for the foundation. Next came restoration of 101 Spring Street, which reopened to the public by appointment in 2013. Last year, Judd’s collected writings were published in a 1,048-page tome. Only now is the furniture finally getting its turn.

“It’s not a frilly, fluffy thing, the furniture,” says Rainer. “Its intellectual rigor is not advertised and not evident. You don’t question the joinery or its engineering. It seems so easy. Of course! Everybody thinks they could do it. Then they should—they should try to go make that chair.” But the desire to engage with their father’s artistic spirit doesn’t extend to his unmade designs, the children say. There are no plans to use his sketches to conjure pieces that were on Judd’s drawing board when he died.

“If Don was really passionate about something, he would get it made,” says Rainer. “He has this beautiful quote: ‘Things that exist, exist, and everything is on their side.’ ”

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The persistent disbeliever: on Donald Judd's writings

Has there been a more rigorous sceptic than Donald Judd? Set aside, for a moment, the philosophers who only think about the world, and picture Judd in Long Island City at the Bernstein Brothers metal shop in 1970 telling fabricators how to make his work. Picture him at home in Manhattan at 101 Spring Street, the building he bought in 1968 as a studio, home and space "in which to install work of mine and of others" so he could spend a long time looking to see whether or not something worked. Imagine him at his desk with pen and paper complaining about those who were too sure: "I gave up on Michael Fried when I heard him say during a symposium that he couldn’t see how anyone who liked Noland and Olitski or Stella could also like Oldenburg and Rauschenberg or Lichtenstein, whichever."

Judd liked Noland and Olitski and Stella and Oldenburg and Rauschenberg and Lichtenstein—and that's all it took, Fried was already disproven. It was too artificial for Judd, this idea that art should hang together in a perfect ideological constellation. Who was Fried to say, as he did at that symposium, that anyone who liked both Noland (the supposed heir to Pollock) and Lichtenstein (a supposedly frivolous aberration) was "in the grip of the wrong experience"? What made Fried the adjudicator of proper and improper experience? Judd felt that whatever a work of art had to say, it said so clearly and directly. It required no special knowledge; it had no ulterior motive or "any hidden subjective depth," as the scholar David Raskin says. It was all right there.

"Most people have some philosophical ideas," Judd wrote in 1983. "Almost none live by one of the grand systems, only by their fossil fragments." The crystal ball of Modernism was broken. Now each individual had to piece things back together in a way that made sense to him or her. It was senseless to form a "closed situation," which he accused "Clement Greenberg and his followers" of trying to do in an essay he published in the magazine Studio International in 1969. Their teleological ideas were not only needless; they were absurd:

"I’ve expected a lot of stupid things to reoccur – movements, labels – but I didn’t think there would be another attempt to impose a universal style. It’s naive and it’s directly opposed to the nature of contemporary art, including that of the artists they support. Their opinions are the same as those of the critics and followers of the late 1950s: there is only one way of working – one kind of form, one medium; everything else is irrelevant and trivial; history is on our side; preserve the true art; preserve the true criticism. This means that Grace Hartigan and Michael Goldberg were better than Reinhardt and Rauschenberg and that Jack Bush and Edward Avedisian are better than Oldenburg and Flavin. Both groups, by these attitudes, slowly destroy the work they’re protecting."

These are the polemics that emerge from Donald Judd: Writings (or the orange book, for the colour of its cover), which was published by the Judd Foundation and David Zwirner Books in November. The book reveals a deeply incredulous man whose arguments were sustained and broad. He was against dealers and collectors, sub-par painters, architects of all kinds (they are "like dentists, in that they are routine and don’t think beyond what they’re doing, but at least dentists are practical"), art handlers ("the various shippers are careless and usually the museum staff that handles art is careless"), critics (Peter "Schjeldahl should try to think and not ramble and jeer"), clueless middling bureaucrats, the US government, Richard Nixon and the first George Bush. He had not the slightest appetite for polite back patting. Ellsworth Kelly, a gentle man if there ever was one, once told me with a resigned sigh that Judd had dismissed him as a "good old European" artist, a barb Judd used often.

Doubt always came first. Even his 1965 essay Specific Objects—which sets out to define, in the broadest terms, the characteristics of the best contemporary art—begins negatively. The opening line is: "Half or more of the best new work in the last few years has been neither painting nor sculpture." The next paragraph begins: "The new three-dimensional work doesn’t constitute a movement, school, or style. The common aspects are too general and too little common to define a movement. The differences are greater than the similarities." And they are. The artists he was drawn to—Yayoi Kusama, John Chamberlain, Lee Bontecou, George Segal, Ronald Bladen, H.C. Westermann—make a distinctly heterogeneous group. They share less a formal or conceptual tendency than an ability to attract Judd's interest.

Fried was wary. In "interest," he saw the true measure of Judd's lack of principle. The artist had many misgivings, but where were his positive values? What did he believe in, what did he defend? In Specific Objects, he wrote that a work of art "needs only to be interesting," which Fried dismissed as intellectual frivolity. For the critic, there was much more at stake. A work of art needed to be significantly more than "interesting"; it had to compel conviction—"specifically, the conviction that a particular painting or sculpture or poem or piece of music can or cannot support comparison with past work," as he wrote in his essay Art and Objecthood, first published in Artforum in 1967. Minimalism (or Literalism, as Fried called it) had no such investment in tradition. It negated art until all that remained was the mere, hollow objecthood of a spare metal box on a gallery floor.

Judd's reply, which came in 1969, was characteristically biting: "That prose was only emotional recreation and Fried’s thinking is just formal analysis and both methods used exclusively are shit." Yet the critic had a point: Judd's method seemed to always emphasise negativity and doubt, whereas for Fried, doubt was a hurdle to be overcome. For the critic, as the art historian James Meyer writes in his book, Minimalism: Art and Polemics in the Sixties, "Only an assertion of faith in the means of expression could stave off the dadaist doubt that art could still matter, still convince, still have something to say." Persistent scepticism looked to Fried like plain nihilism and nothing short of religious zeal was the proper corrective. It is no coincidence that Art and Objecthood begins with an epigraph by the 18th-century Colonial Calvinist preacher Jonathan Edwards.

But Fried had missed something about Judd. He was an atheist, certainly, but a pessimist? That cannot explain his belief that art had political and moral dimensions. Barnett Newman, one of Judd's idols, felt that if his paintings were truly understood, "it would mean the end of all state capitalism and totalitarianism," which was a sentiment Judd largely echoed. Like Newman, he was an avowed anarchist and he bristled when a curator from the Guggenheim Museum said their Hans Haacke show from 1971 was cancelled because the museum charter's prohibited political art. "I was offended," Judd said, "since that meant that my work, acceptable as so-called abstraction, had no political meaning." It did have such content, he felt, because a work of art was like a person, a complete character, full of the same convictions and confusions, half-thoughts, guesses, intentions and wavering reflections. "It's seldom said," Judd wrote in 1984, "that art involves all of the concerns of philosophy, even of living."

When Judd was still young, he developed the conviction that only a mechanical description of a work of art could be true; anything else was empty speculation. In 1959, when he was a graduate student in art history at Columbia University, he wrote a paper for Meyer Schapiro where he mapped out a painting by James Brooks, with letters designated for various sections, and wrote:

"'E' and 'C' are both light and similar in color, yet 'C' functions as a concavity while 'E”'is convex and is one of several such areas surrounding 'C.' The convexity is formed by the outward bulging contour, by the light orange patch and the black line – a reference to the frontal black plane of 'D' – laid across 'E,' which prevent its recession and describe its curve, and by a blue-green earth-colored stroke, which pushes the area inward, on an angle into space, also described by the lines, and separates 'E' from 'C.'"

To be fair, Judd was young—only 31—when he wrote this essay and he did not intend it for publication. But a certain tediousness never left him. His prose, especially in large doses, can be tiresome, which was a quality he cultivated. He did not care for Art News poet-critics like Frank O'Hara, whose book on Pollock had "some baloney, and no real thought." Judd's style was tougher, more exact; more practical criticism than art criticism. Nuts and bolts were what he was after: shape, colour, tone, hue. In a review of Burgoyne Diller's work from 1963, he wrote: "The color structures suggest the idea that different colors, given the same volume, appear to have different volumes in space. Or that different volumes, painted the right colors, can be equal or otherwise related. This is a good idea, but it needs considerable development."

He wrote hundreds of reviews like this between 1959 and 1973, primarily for Arts magazine where Hilton Kramer was the editor and paid $6 for 300 words. The articles are often sharp and articulate, but never quite completely comprehensible. Judd was an exact writer: specific, deliberate, but often too close to the thing to see it whole, like an assembly line worker who only does the fittings. He was an applied critic; his insights came from the mechanics of the thing and he disparaged those full-time writers who "invent labels to pad their irrelevant discourse" while artists actually made art history. No writer since Greenberg had explained Pollock as well as Judd did in his 1967 essay on the painter, but even then he was worried it didn't make sense. "It would take a big effort for me or anyone to think about Pollock’s work in a way that would be intelligible," he said, adding that he couldn't write "what I think should be written about Pollock." To really understand the painter "would be something of a construction. It is necessary to build ways of talking about the work"—to literally make something of it.

Here, at last, is the root of Judd's positive belief: that art is a holistic activity that requires not just ideas, but production, too. Through 1973, the latter had been difficult. Judd's work was expensive to make and difficult to sell. He made most of his money writing until then. In the early 1970s, through the dealer Leo Castelli, he finally found consistent support from the Italian collector Giuseppe Panza, who bought 11 works in those years. Panza was fond of Judd; he liked the artist's pragmatic openness to selling cheap. He wanted to buy in bulk to decorate his Italian villa in Varese. By 1974, he was purchasing not just finished sculptures, but plans too, like a sketch for a work of eight open plywood cubes and another for a sculpture made of 70 brass boxes. It was win-win: Judd had a patron and Panza got a discount by buying just the idea.

From then through the early 1980s, Judd published irregularly. The money he began to earn from his work allowed him to make more of it, which occupied much of his energy. It also helped finance his purchase, in 1973, of a city's block worth of land in Marfa, Texas, where he later spent much of his time. But his relationship with Panza steadily soured. He thought he had been clear with the collector: the works on paper were only proposals, not blueprints. They could not simply be fabricated in Italy without the artist's oversight, as the collector had done. ''The understanding was that my work would be paid for by Panza and constructed under my supervision,'' Judd later said, but that had not happened. Panza, citing lower fabrication costs, simply went ahead and had the works made. Judd alleged that the sculptures were "fakes," but it was too late: Panza, "an attorney, after all, was technically correct," as Meyer points out in his essay The Minimal Unconscious. "The certificates Judd signed pointedly omit the requirement that he make the work." Panza was within his right. "His were 'bad' Judds, perhaps, but they were legal—and so legally speaking—authentic."

Why did Judd's scepticism fail him? Why did his otherwise extreme distrust of collectors, fabricators and handlers, his attentiveness to exhibition design and the rhetoric that surrounded his work abandon him when it came to Panza? Maybe the simple answer is financial: the stability the collector offered may have been too difficult to give up. But the episode also speaks to the limits of Judd's method. Doubt can only take one so far; at a certain point, we all have to take some things for granted, as even he knew. "Otherwise we could never get from A to Z, barely to C, since B would have to be always rechecked," he wrote in 1983. "It’s a short life and a little speed is necessary."

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Specific Objectives: The Complex Task of Preserving Donald Judd’s Legacy

One recent afternoon in Donald Judd’s old house in downtown Manhattan, the late artist’s children—Flavin and Rainer—were discussing their father’s career. Flavin has a boyish, unlined face framed by reddish-blond hair. Rainer inherited her slender build from their mother, dancer Julie Finch. Flavin, standing in the kitchen, froze abruptly, his pale eyebrows furrowing. “The meat thing is in the wrong place,” he said.

“No!” his younger sister said, stricken. Absorbing this sacrilege from a balcony, she reconsidered. “Which meat thing? Oh! That meat thing. I actually moved it.”

The meat thing was a morsa, a hefty, surgical-looking clamp designed to slice prosciutto. Flavin regarded the displaced device with consternation. “It’s not supposed to be here,” he said.

“You can move it back,” said Rainer.

Dust motes, let alone morsas, don’t usually move in 101 Spring Street, the five-story cadet-blue cast-iron building in SoHo at the corner of Mercer, where Rainer and Flavin spent their early childhood. The building is now the headquarters of the Judd Foundation, established in 1996 to protect and preserve the artist’s work. In the basement are the foundation’s offices; on every other floor is an astonishing feat of conservation.

The top floor glows violet in the aura of a fluorescent sculpture by Dan Flavin, Judd’s friend and his firstborn’s namesake (Rainer is named for Yvonne Rainer, the dancer). Judd’s wool jackets and work shirts hang in small closets. Near the low walnut platform bed, a Judd design, is an example of his early work: a dense assemblage of steel and cadmium red–painted wood that he made by hand in 1961, before he famously began outsourcing fabrication to industrial factories. Down on the second floor, the kitchen and dining area are flooded with the same scorching sunlight causing clothes to stick to tourists on the street below, but with none of the heat, honks, or grime of the outside world. The silent rooms remain almost exactly as Judd left them when he died in 1994. Nothing is arbitrary or accidental. Gingerly exploring the home-studio engenders an acute awareness of oneself as an interloper, a messy unplanned element in this hyper-considered realm, like a germ infiltrating an operating theater. Unlike when Judd lived there without air conditioning, the space is now cool, its temperature perfectly calibrated to keep Judd’s residence, and legacy, on ice.

Born two years apart, in 1968 and 1970, Flavin and Rainer present a tightly unified front. Earlier that June morning, they sat barricaded behind an enormous mahogany table. It is a formidable piece of Judd’s own design: clean, deliberate and utterly uncompromising, rather like the artist himself and the foundation that bears his name, of which his children are co-presidents. The siblings talked about making their father’s prodigious output accessible. “The Judd Foundation is one big tool box,” said Rainer, evoking the archive of Judd’s writings, his carefully installed properties in New York and Marfa, Texas, his 13,000-volume library, and his artwork and furniture. “I mean, hell if we don’t need a tool box right now,” she added.

In November, David Zwirner Books, the publishing imprint of the gallery that represents the Judd Foundation, will release, in collaboration with the foundation, "Donald Judd Writings," a tome containing the artist’s obscurely or never-before published essays, personal letters, and notes. These are woven in amongst the texts collected during his lifetime which were published as "Donald Judd: Complete Writings 1959-1975." Better known as the Yellow Book, it was reissued by the foundation this past March. "Donald Judd Writings" augments the known essays on art and architecture—clear, direct and tersely unequivocal—with welcome shades of nuance. In ruminative asides, we witness Judd working through his ideas.

The new book is a prelude to a larger moment for the artist. By now, Judd’s influence is so widespread, so casually ingrained in contemporary art and design, it’s easy to forget it’s there. That will change over the next year. Since 2009, the foundation has been updating Judd’s catalogue raisonné—a previous, necessarily incomplete one was published during his lifetime—and put out a call for works this past May. Next fall will bring a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York curated by Ann Temkin. The long-awaited survey will be Judd’s first in the United States since 1988, when 30 works went on view at the Whitney Museum, and will provide a fresh opportunity to consider his incisive originality and lingering impact.

Meanwhile, Rainer and Flavin preside over a sprawling kingdom. They became executors of their father’s estate when they were 23 and 25, along with Marianne Stockebrand, the German curator who was Judd’s companion for the last four years of his life. (The estate’s assets—including artworks, 101 Spring Street and numerous live/work spaces in Marfa­­—were ultimately transferred to the foundation.)

The children each inherited $300,000, millions in debt, and a request that would determine the rest of their adult lives: Judd wanted his properties in New York and Marfa to be preserved the way he had so carefully installed them. In Judd’s will, this was his wish; for the heirs it was a commandment. They had no choice, they felt, but to protect these spaces. Others with a stake in Judd’s career disagreed. Controversy has followed the artist posthumously, raising the question: What is the right way to steward an artist’s legacy when some of his most significant works are not objects that can be bought and sold?

Judd purchased 101 Spring Street for $68,000 in 1968, when the neighborhood—a warren of sweatshops and small factories—didn’t have a supermarket, let alone Stella McCartney. “There was no SoHo when Judd bought his building,” artist Carl Andre said. Working floor by floor, Judd transformed the building into a forceful expression of his aesthetic and philosophical preoccupations, installing artworks and objects in harmony with the architecture.

Judd spent the final decades of his life in Marfa, however, leaving 101 Spring to languish, a Minimalist version of Miss Havisham’s wedding cake. Chunks of cast iron crumbled off the facade. Judd looked into repairing the structure in the early ’90s, but balked at the expense.

Judd’s children would realize the restoration their father could not. The siblings searched for the least invasive compromises possible, shackled to both building ordinances in a very different SoHo and to their father’s sometimes wildly impractical installations. Their adherence to his preferences was unbending and obsessive.

But the question was how to fund this extensive $23 million overhaul, which would include replacing the building’s 60 giant windows with UV- and temperature-regulating glass that still undulate like the original panes, and swapping the open spiral staircase corkscrewing through the space with an enclosed stairwell to meet modern fire codes. In order to create an endowment that would allow them to pursue grants and donations, Rainer and Flavin opted to consign to Christie’s 36 of Judd’s works, none of which had ever come to market. Twenty-five of them sold in a single evening auction in 2006.

The sale sparked fierce protest from people who had been close to Judd, including Stockebrand, who sat on the board of the Judd Foundation, and Arne Glimcher, the founder of Pace Gallery, which represented Judd at the time of his death.

“I didn’t like the idea [of selling] all those works at auction,” Stockebrand said. “I thought that it was too many and it came too quickly, and I resigned from the Judd Foundation board when that decision was made, because I didn’t want to be responsible for it.”

Glimcher agreed. “That auction got rid of all the best stuff in the inventory,” he said, naming Richard Schlagman, then the owner of Phaidon books and a foundation board member, as the architect of the sale. “I think Schlagman did a terrible job with the estate by getting rid of most of the works at bargain prices.” Some of those who had known Judd were relatively tolerant of the sale—New York Times art critic Roberta Smith, who worked for Judd briefly in the ’70s, wrote that he “might have viewed the sale with a certain pragmatic equanimity. . . . He remarked more than once that one purpose of his smaller, portable sculptures was to make money to pay for bigger projects.” Others thought that his children had carted off some of his best work—work that altered the course of art history—in favor of maintaining a shrine. The three-year restoration of 101 Spring Street was completed in 2013.

“It’s almost a little unpleasant,” said Paula Cooper, who represented Judd for six years before he left for Pace in 1991, of being inside the renovated building. “Maybe for those of us who knew him, it’s kind of creepy.”

Rainer and Flavin have given over their adult lives to their father, weathering criticism from those who, they say, don’t understand what Judd would have wanted. “Nobody whose opinion I respected opposed [the auction] so it wasn’t much of a problem for me,” Flavin said. If certain people in Judd’s cadre saw vultures circling around the Christie’s auction, Flavin has much the same opinion about the sale’s detractors. “When he died, there were already dark forces gathering,” said Flavin, conjuring wolfish bottom-liners who saw Judd’s properties and artwork as so many assets to be liquidated. “It was very obvious that the stupidity was at our doorstep,” he added. The Judd children saw themselves as the only thing standing between their father and prospectors looking to make a quick buck off Judd’s sizable reputation. “No, we didn’t think 22 years later we’d still be doing it,” Flavin said of the foundation. “But we’re not done yet.”

Financially, the Judd Foundation appears to be in good health. Its revenue was $5.4 million in the 2013 fiscal year, according to tax returns. The foundation’s director of operations, Richard Griggs, earned around $100,000; Rainer and Flavin each received salaries of roughly $150,000. The operating budget as of June 2016 was $3.1 million.

“There’s this weird, subtle, unspoken thing that we expect good people doing good things to be struggling financially . . . and I think we need to embrace good people [making] smart, wise business choices,” said Rainer. “Good people who are doing good things can be financially organized.”

Born in Missouri in 1928, Judd roared onto the New York art scene in the late 1950s. After receiving a master’s degree in art history from Columbia University, where he studied philosophy as an undergrad, the artist rapidly asserted himself as a vocal fixture in the downtown milieu. Perhaps more than any other artist of his generation, Judd shaped the cultural discourse of his time—not only through his radical sculptures, but with his prolific writing on his peers. He championed the artists he admired (Yayoi Kusama, John Chamberlain, Claes Oldenburg) and succinctly eviscerated those he did not. Judd espoused utter contempt for contemporary figuration, and he lambasted lazy art historians who lumped the new work he, Andre, Dan Flavin, Frank Stella, and others were making under narrow terms of convenience like “Minimalism,” as they had lumped Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline under “Abstract Expressionism.” (Of the young painters who aped the Ab Ex titans, he wrote: “The situation is grotesque.”)

“[We were] not only hostile to postwar European art, but hostile to 10th Street art,” Stella said of his generation’s far-reaching belligerence toward members of the old guard and the avant-garde alike. “We were pretty hostile to just about everything.”

Judd preferred entertaining at home—the reverently preserved bottles at 101 Spring Street reflect his fondness for Scotch—but he occasionally hit Max’s Kansas City, the beloved downtown art bar, where Andre once watched him nearly come to blows with Robert Morris. “It was an incredibly fertile time,” said Andre.

Judd initially showed with Leo Castelli, the keen-eyed dealer who had championed Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol. Judd’s stark box sculptures, industrially fabricated from his own designs, eventually came to define the art being made in New York in the 1960s as much as Pollock’s drip paintings had the decade before. His success was hard-won, however. Describing a 1966 exhibition at Castelli, Hilton Kramer of the New York Times was in awe of Judd’s boldness (“it is work that consigns to the trash can of history most of our conventional beliefs about sculptural craftsmanship”), but also lamented “the sense of loss that one feels in seeing art carried to such an extreme of depersonalization.” No other artist of such renown had the “But is it art?” question lobbed his way more often than Judd. He left Castelli for the Paula Cooper Gallery, and had his first show there in 1985.

“We helped him be resuscitated,” Cooper said in her office, her hands resting on a pale Judd desk with built-in slots for papers. “He was respected, but his work was not selling at all, he wasn’t having museum shows. Nothing was happening, and we just believed so fervently in him.”

Cooper and Judd enjoyed a close friendship, frequently meeting for drinks and long talks about art and architecture. Despite his reputation for apoplectic rants, largely born out of his writing, he was soft-spoken in person. Videos show a pensive artist with a sense of humor, prone—as his children are—to studying patches of tabletop while speaking, or to scanning far walls, as though his thoughts were written there in runes only he could decipher.

Douglas Baxter, a longtime director at Cooper’s gallery, would also befriend “Don,” as he was known to everyone, including his children. When Baxter left Paula Cooper to work for Pace Gallery in 1991, Judd followed, along with other artists Cooper represented, including Joel Shapiro, Robert Mangold, and Elizabeth Murray.

“It was one of the most rewarding relationships in my life, I guess because Don did have this reputation for being so demanding and difficult,” said Baxter. “I think maybe he cultivated that, which made getting past it all the more special. I don’t think there were a lot of people who did get past that . . . maybe a couple dozen.”

At the time, Judd’s fabrication and his pared-down forms, which were about negative space as much as the solid industrial materials, were radical departures from the history of sculpture. Judd’s innovations may have still packed a bit of shock value at the time of the Whitney show in 1988, but by the time of the Tate retrospective in London in 2004, Minimalism had become a lifestyle. Calvin Klein, for instance, shot a 1995 ad campaign at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa.

“I remember seeing these ads for Calvin Klein Home,” said Chris D’Amelio, who works with the Judd Foundation as a director at David Zwirner. “They were like white walls, a wood floor, bed practically on the floor, white comforter with pillows, and a single lamp.” It was Judd-Lite.

Zwirner began representing the Judd Foundation in 2010, a year after it brought in the estate of Dan Flavin. In recent years the gallery has become one of the foremost stables for blue-chip artists and distinguished estates in the world, and a major player in Minimalism. Arne Glimcher said that Pace would have been chosen to represent the foundation had the gallery agreed to buy from the foundation around 20 pieces from a group of modestly-sized Judd works called the Menzikens. Glimcher felt the price was too high, and passed.

“It was a holdup, and I didn’t want to be held up,” said Glimcher. “I think Zwirner needed it badly, so he paid for the name.” Flavin Judd said the foundation “selected David Zwirner as our gallery partner because of the strength of its program and interest in scholarly research.”

Although the foundation insists that Pace has never had access to its complete holdings—something the foundation keeps private—Glimcher believes that few large artworks remain in it after the 2006 sale. In a move that riled Paula Cooper, Dan Flavin’s former dealer, the Flavin estate decided to begin completing editions that were left incomplete at the time of Flavin’s death in 1996, and those works have sold through Zwirner. There is no comparable scenario with Judd, however, who didn’t work in edition or leave plans for unrealized works. “With Judd, nothing is being fabricated at all,” said D’Amelio. “It’s only what he made during his life.”

Zwirner intends to bolster appreciation for Judd’s existing oeuvre and to establish a Judd market in China, where his work—not to mention Minimalism in general—is virtually unknown. Even in the United States, Judd has been something of a slow burner.

“Twenty-six years ago, when I first started working, most of the people I would speak to about Judd would laugh at me for saying, ‘look at this, this is really great,’ ” said D’Amelio. A small base of collectors sustained the market, while “most people thought, ‘No, come on, it’s a box on the wall. I don’t want that.’ ”

Judd never concerned himself with the market or viewed his practice as a get-rich-quick scheme. “He would talk about how he and Claes [Oldenburg] never expected to make money,” said Rainer. “They were artists and that was just the way it was, that they were going to make art, and things would get a little better than grapefruits and oatmeal all day long but . . . they couldn’t foresee that art was something that was going to make a lot of money.”

When Christie’s sold Judd’s 1963 wall sculpture "Untitled (DSS42)" in 2013, it set a new auction record for his work of $14.1 million, silencing any remaining speculation that his market had been damaged by the 2006 sale. Still, its high price was partly attributable to its large size and pristine provenance. Judd’s prices at auction may now outstrip those of Andre, Flavin, and the other giants of Minimalism, but they still lag behind the consistently stratospheric sums commanded by painters of his generation who had kindred preoccupations, such as Robert Ryman. (D’Amelio said Judd’s work has sold for more privately than at auction.)

According to D’Amelio, having collectors come around to Judd “is a slow and beautiful process.”

Judd’s old SoHo building, which is open by appointment for tours, functions as a kind of Donald Judd museum, a space consecrated to his life in its daily particulars and highest ideals. That the two so often overlap within the spaces he created speaks to the artist’s singular vision and consummate philosophy. On the third floor, a meditative realm of right angles, carefully arranged rulers and other precision instruments rest on an antique drafting desk, echoing the Platonic geometry of the giant aluminum box dominating the loft, a Judd sculpture from 1970. Its metal sides glow in the sunlight, appearing almost liquid at certain times of day, an effect one might contemplate while availing oneself of the Ethiopian headrest set on the floor nearby.

One wonders what the ever-opinionated artist would have made of his upcoming retrospective at MoMA. If 101 Spring Street is a museum retrospective in perpetuity, Judd installed it that way partly in reaction to conventional institutions. Museums have never been ideal settings for experiencing his work, and no one felt this more strongly than Judd himself.

“Temporary shows and group shows in museums are insufficient and are damaging to the idea of art and actually, to the work,” he wrote in a letter to artist Annabelle D’Huart, one of the previously unpublished writings that will appear in the new book. “The space in the museums is seldom right, as it is usually awkward and pretentious architecture. There is not enough time to think out the placement of the pieces. And why, if an exhibition is somehow well done, destroy it after a month?”

Judd was not the first artist to chafe at the growing commercialism of SoHo in the 1970s, but he responded more drastically than those who simply found new digs elsewhere in New York. Judd started searching for a refuge distant from the claws of a rapidly transforming city and increasingly mercenary art world. He “was always trying to get as far away from people as he could,” said Andre.

He found his haven in Marfa, a sparsely populated ranching town in west Texas, deep within the Chihuahuan Desert. It was here that his vision would reach its apotheosis. He dreamed up a bell jar where his work, along with that of his friends John Chamberlain and Dan Flavin, could stand forever. With help from the Dia Foundation, which famously funded projects beyond the means and conceptual parameters of most museums, Judd bought Fort D. A. Russell, a 340-acre property studded with disused army barracks and warehouses, in 1979. In the mid-’80s, when Dia attempted to sell off some of the works Judd installed in Marfa due to financial woes (the foundation ran on oil money), Judd threatened to sue, winning control of the fort and its contents in an out-of-court settlement. In 1986, he reopened the property as the Chinati Foundation, a public, permanently installed exhibition space.

Marianne Stockebrand began visiting Judd in Marfa not long after, and he traveled to see her in Cologne. Douglas Baxter remembers joining the couple in Germany in 1993, on his way to Istanbul. They visited a museum, and Baxter could hear Judd’s laughter echoing in the next gallery.

“I’ll never forget hearing him laugh,” said Baxter. “The next day he went to the doctor in Cologne, and basically that’s when he got the news that he was very sick. It was like one day he’s laughing, and the next day he’s dying.”

Judd was diagnosed with lymphoma. He died a few months later, on February 12, 1994, leaving vast projects in limbo. Chinati, for instance, had no staff, no operating budget, no formal opening hours. Judd kept the amorphous organization financially afloat during his lifetime, and it could easily have ceased to exist when he died had it not been for Stockebrand. Marfa is now known as a mecca for art-hipster hajjis, but when Judd died, the town was still desolate.

“There was no functioning hotel,” Stockebrand recalled. “There was—you couldn’t say it was a restaurant—but there was a place where one could find food. It was quite curious and fun to be there, but it was sometimes very difficult to have guests when you couldn’t accommodate them.”

Stockebrand became director of Chinati when Judd died, and it was up to her to transform the project into a proper institution. She moved to Marfa in 1994 and began visiting potential donors for the virtually unheard-of foundation. She raised around $140,000 the first year. By the time she stepped down from the directorship in 2010, the endowment totaled more than $10 million, and annual attendance had topped 10,000 visitors.

Judd’s uncompromising ambition was of the moment. The Minimalists were a dogmatic bunch. They always knew best and they liked making rules. Visitors, for instance, do not get to choose how much time they spend with Walter De Maria’s "Lightning Field" (1977), another Dia-funded installation, this one in New Mexico. They must spend the night with the spare expanse of evenly spaced steel poles, sleeping in a designated cabin.

Flavin Judd thinks of 101 Spring Street as a testament to that vanished time and a vital bastion against cultural amnesia. “There’s no awareness of history, so the present always [seems like] the best thing possible, which erases the need to preserve,” he said. The Judd Foundation is “fighting entropy by preserving knowledge.”

There is poignancy to Judd’s struggle against inevitability, a nobility to standing in the face of decay and degeneration. But his wishes—and those of his children—run counter not only to how the art world works, but how history works. The efforts to preserve every pencil eraser in Judd’s home just as he left it recalls King Canute enthroned on the beach, staring down the advancing tide. For an artist who studied philosophy and art history, whose library testifies to his voracious appetite for perspective, Judd was adept at ignoring temporal (and financial) realities..

Nevertheless, reality occasionally infiltrates Judd’s hallowed ground. The first floor of 101 Spring has hosted a variety of events. The record label Mexican Summer, along with the nonprofit Ballroom Marfa, organized a music festival called Marfa Myths last March inside Judd’s west Texas temple. (“The anti-Coachella,” Billboard magazine called it.)

With an artist so outspoken, so specific about his own work, one constantly wonders, said Stockebrand, “What would Judd have thought? What would he have said? What would he have decided? And you can’t really, you can only take guidance insofar as you are trying to understand his principles, and then you still have to make a decision. Not everything can remain exactly the way it was meant to be. Case by case, you have to make these decisions. It’s tricky.”

Judd once held a fairly optimistic view of history. “It is not surprising that art should progress, since societies do,” he wrote in a previously unpublished note from 1963, included in the forthcoming book. Another note, written 20 years later, betrays a wearier stance. In it, Judd writes, “There is not so much progress as change.”