From the Vault

Western Union Telegram from Judd to his Mother, 1946

While enlisted in the United States Army, Donald Judd traveled by bus from Fort McClellan, Alabama to Los Angeles, California. On December 17, 1946, Judd passed through Van Horn, Texas, a small town located an hour and a half (74 miles) northwest of Marfa, Texas, where he would later reside from the early 1970s on. Judd sent this telegraph to his mother, Effie Judd, using the Western Union Telegraph Company, where both his parents, Effie and Roy, worked for many years in the Mid-West.   

This telegraph reflects Judd’s initial impression of the area’s landscape and small population size. Judd would later write in an essay titled, Marfa, Texas: “This was the first time that I saw the Southwest, unfortunately according to the days and nights of the bus...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...I chose the town of Marfa (pop. 2,466) because it was the best looking and most practical.”

Announcements from Early Exhibitions

In a September 1956 Arts Magazine review, the following was said of Judd’s second show at the Panoras gallery with Nathan Raisen: “Though it bears some resemblances to the work of Dove, with its large awkward shapes, Judd’s painting stays closer to the surface with less interest in the shading off of color into depth...in Welfare Island, an aerial map in grays, blacks and grass greens, there seems to be less concern with the plastic effect of the paint and more interest in the imposition of strikingly bold design.” In June of the following year, Judd had his first solo show at Panoras. His paintings were reviewed favorably, but not glowingly. In Arts Magazine, the reviewer stated, “They [the paintings] have a generally German Post-Expressionist frugality, somewhat brutal in their denial of all qualities but those of thrust and space, but there’s a good medium resonance to the color.” Judd would later install some of these paintings, including Welfare Island in what is referred to as the Cobb House in Marfa, Texas, a building he purchased in late 1980s. While few people saw these paintings during Judd’s lifetime, they can be seen in Marfa as part of Judd Foundation’s permanent touring program.  

Historic Photograph of 101 Spring Street

In February 1968, Judd purchased 101 Spring Street, a five-story cast-iron building designed by Nicholas Whyte, built in 1870. In this photograph dated May 1969, the sign of one of the building’s previous tenants, Lanigan and Cross, Machinists, is visible in the window. Judd would spend many years renovating the building to serve as a home and studio. In his essay 101 Spring Street written in 1989, Judd reflected on his intentions, “My requirements were that the building be useful for living and working and more importantly, more definitely, be a space in which to install work of mine and others.” He would go on to state that, “The renovation of the building and the permanent purpose of the building are precedents for the larger spaces in my place in Texas, Mansana de Chinati, for the Chinati Foundation, and will be for Ayala de Chinati.”  In October 2010, Judd Foundation began a comprehensive restoration of 101 Spring Street to restore the building’s historic façade and allow safe public access for tours and programs. In 2001, the National Trust for Historic Preservation selected 101 Spring Street as a founding site of its Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios program.

Donald Judd and the Trisha Brown Dance Company

Embracing theater as an interdisciplinary field, modern dancer and choreographer Trisha Brown (b. 1936), engaged a number of painters and sculptors, including Nancy Graves, Terry Winters and Donald Judd, in collaborative projects for the stage. Brown first collaborated with Robert Rauschenberg on the costume and set design for Glacial Decay in 1979. Throughout her career, Brown continued this practice of working with visual artists, many of whom had no previous experience in theater design. 

Donald Judd’s first stage collaboration with the Trisha Brown Dance Company was for the 1981 performance of Son of Gone Fishin’, which premiered at the BAM Opera House in Brooklyn, New York.  Judd designed the stage set, a series of five drops upstage moving through a variety of positions.  Judd’s blue and green studies for Son of Gone Fishin’ , executed in watercolor on paper, are part of the Foundation’s Archives. Below is the cast sheet from the world premiere of Son of Gone Fishin’.

Son of Gone Fishin’ also included a score by contemporary American composer, Robert Ashley (b. 1930). Concerning Trisha Brown’s work and relationship to contemporary music, Ashley said in 2001, “I have admired Trisha Brown’s work since I first saw it with the Judson Dance Theater in 1965. I have also admired the way she generally sticks with contemporary music, even in these cautious times.”

For Brown’s Newark (Nieweweorce), 1987, Judd created the sound concept for the music, as well as the set design and costumes (fabric samples for the costumes can be seen below).  Judd further developed the upstage set design of Son of Gone Fishin’, using the entire stage in Newark.  Of the set, Brown recalled in 2001, “Cadmium light red, burnt sienna, cadmium yellow, deep blue, and cadmium red. Drops rising and descending at different times, slightly alternating the amount of depth on the stage for the dancers. Hard edge.”  In the essay, “How to Make a Modern Dance When the Sky is the Limit,” from Trisha Brown: Dance and Art in Dialogue, 1961-2001, Brown describes her collaboration with Judd on Newark:

In both instances that we worked together [Son of Gone Fishin’ and Newark], Judd brought his Minimalist aesthetic to my stage. A residency at the Centre National de Dance Contemporaine in Angers, France, gave Don and me, plus Peter Zummo, music production, and Ken Tabachnick, lighting design, the crucial gift of time on stage to choreograph with the set and lights every day, six days a week, for six weeks…Don’s stage design comprised five proscenium-size drops in the three primary colors plus brown and another shade of red. They split the stage into sections forming four corridors, which could alternately block and reveal the dance. Don devised three separate mathematical systems to determine what drops, in what order, would come in where and for how long…The Newark set did impose tough dialogues and severe internal limitations, but it also delivered a spatial and temporal score that forced invention and resulted in one of the most striking pieces in our repertory.


Donald Judd in Japan

In 1978, Donald Judd had his first solo show in Japan at Galerie Watari (see show announcement). The show, titled The Sculpture of Donald Judd, included works, woodcuts, and drawings.  Judd worked with a number of galleries and museums in Asia throughout his career, including Galerie Watari, Galerie Yamaguchi, and the Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art in Japan; and Gallery Seomi and Inkong Gallery in Korea.

In 1992, Judd traveled to Japan for the opening of a retrospective of his work at the Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art, where he also gave a public lecture (see photograph). The show then traveled to the Kitakyushi Municipal Museum of Art in 1993 (see installation shot). This retrospective marked the first time that Judd’s works were exhibited in a public museum in Japan.  In his essay Art and Internationalism, published in the Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art’s catalogue, Judd wrote, “I think that art is an international activity.” 

For more information, see the following catalogues:

The Sculpture of Donald Judd, Tokyo: Galerie Watari, 1978. Donald Judd, Shizuoka City: Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art, 1992.

Symposium 84

In 1984, in conjunction with the University of Texas at El Paso, Judd helped organize a symposium, simply called SYMPOSIUM 84, which included lectures, exhibitions, performances, and frequent opportunities for open discussions between artists, curators, gallerists, and the public.  Participants in the symposium included, Larry Bell, Trisha Brown, Leo Castelli, John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Yvonne Rainer, and David Rabinowitch.  Also included as part of the symposium were two evening performances by Trisha Brown Dance Company

In addition to the Symposium, Judd invited a large group of participants to visit Marfa, Texas where he had established his home, including studios and library, and had started renovation and installation of what was then known as The Art Museum of the Pecos but was renamed The Chinati Foundation in April 1986.  


Citizens for Local Democracy

As a member of the SoHo community starting with his purchase of 101 Spring Street in 1968, Judd actively participated in many political activities focused on localized democracy. In the late 1960s, Judd became an advisory member of Citizens for Local Democracy (CLD), “a non-partisan civic organization formed to promote the principle of local self-government and civic responsibility as the foundation of true responsible representative government.” Other advisory members at the time included Hannah Arendt, Noam Chomsky, and Murray Kempton. The CLD held a variety of forums, seminars, and gatherings and also published a series of pamphlets with the goal to “bring the cause of local democracy into the public arena.” As early as 1970, Judd stated in “The Artist and Politics: A Symposium,” “I’ve always thought that my work had political implications,” continuing, “I’m involved with an organization called Citizens for Local Democracy which is starting local groups. It also publishes pamphlets and print ads…It’s allied to a journal called The Public Life…I agree with The Public Life and that’s unusual.  Their thinking is more developed than mine and has influenced mine; but when I read the first issue of The Public Life, I recognized some of the ideas; I hadn’t seen them stated before” (Artforum, Sept. 1970).

Judd saved dozens of pamphlets, newspapers, and flyers related not only to Citizens for Local Democracy, but also other local democratic efforts such as Artists Against the Expressway. This typed statement, beginning, “We are forming an organization called the Lower Manhattan Citizens for Local Democracy…” is just one example of Judd’s early political writings. In January 1971, he expanded upon this initial statement, exhibited here in draft and typed form, publishing “ General Statement,” in the newspaper of the Lower Manhattan Township, writing, “Most people are powerless; of those most are docile; a few resist occasionally…The only practical, possible, though difficult, way to regain control is for everyone to establish townships, local political units.” From the 1960s onward Judd argued for an active and engaged citizenry.  His later political writings remained ideologically consistent in their attempt to admonish the concentration of political power in the hands of a few. 

Letter from the Army

Judd enlisted in the United States Army on June 28th, 1946.  Dated July 11th, 1946, this is perhaps the first letter that Judd sent home after arriving in Fort McClennan, Alabama. Soldiers were trained at Fort McClennan until November 1946, when the Fort was re-designated as a recruit training center.  Judd served as a construction foreman in the Army Corp of Engineers in Korea.  By November 1947, Judd had completed his required military service and was honorably discharged.  Judd did not serve in the Korean War, which began in 1950 and ended in 1953.

Addressed to his parents, Roy and Effie Judd, and sister, Marcia, the letter reads:

I couldn’t send a telegram as they wouldn’t give us any time. This isn’t bad country – hills with good valleys in between. It’s hot as all get out but I rather like it that way. This is a pretty nice camp with plenty of facilities. I’ll write a better letter when I have a good light and more time. Send me some letters.


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