January 25, 2016

Two forthcoming books gather rare Donald Judd writings



Donald Judd, Chair (1982). Image via Phaidon.

Previously unpublished and out-of-print writings by the late artist Donald Judd are set to be released in two forthcoming books, Randy Kennedy reports for the New York Times.

While Judd, who died in 1994, remains best known for his sculpture and “spare architectural interventions,” he also produced a large volume of criticism and essays that, according to Kennedy, “helped set the terms for minimalism, the movement he never quite claimed as his own.”

Judd’s writings show a clear, precise conception of the function of art and thoughtful consideration of the way his own work fit into a larger theoretical framework. For example, in his landmark 1993 essay “It’s Hard to Find a Good Lamp,” Judd wrote at length—with a dose of wry humor—about the crucial division between art and furniture, describing the essential “visual reasonableness” of the latter:

“The configuration and the scale of art cannot be transposed into furniture and architecture. The intent of art is different from that of the latter, which must be functional. If a chair or a building is not functional, if it appears to be only art, it is ridiculous. The art of a chair is not its resemblance to art, but is partly its reasonableness, usefulness and scale as a chair. These are proportion, which is visible reasonableness. The art in art is partly the assertion of someone’s interest regardless of other considerations. A work of art exists as itself; a chair exists as a chair itself. And the idea of a chair isn’t a chair.”

According to Kennedy, the first step in reviving Judd’s written work comes in March, when the Judd Foundation will republish the long out-of-print Donald Judd: Complete Writings 1959–1975, known by many as the “the Yellow Book” for the bright cover of the original volume. This will be followed by a “comprehensive collection of Judd’s writings, published with David Zwirner Books and spanning the artist’s entire career” (through 1993), which includes 40 never-before-published pieces.

As the artist’s son, Flavin Judd (named for Judd’s close friend and fellow artist, Dan Flavin), told Kennedy: “[W]ith this book people will finally have access to what Don was thinking as he developed his work and his life—the writings interweave his activities.”

In fact, they may even hold up on their own.


Kait Howard was a publicist at Melville House.