Donald Judd’s stunning, innovative sculptures, composed of industrial materials, are universally acknowledged as a foundation of Minimalism. Born in 1928 in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, Judd studied at both the College of William and Mary, Virginia, and at Columbia University, New York. During the 1940’s, Judd worked as an expressionist painter, moving additionally into woodcuts and other three-dimensional pieces through the 1950’s. His first solo exhibition, still composed entirely of canvases, was held in 1957 at the Panoramas Gallery, New York.
Beginning in the early 1960’s, however, Judd abandoned painting altogether to focus exclusively on his “Specific Objects:” simple, repeated sculptural forms composed of industrial materials such as metals, plywood, concrete, and Plexiglas. As Judd began to explore more radical forms of abstraction, his fame grew, with prominent dealer and gallerist Leo Castelli organizing the first of a long series of individual exhibitions for the artist in 1966. In 1968, the Whitney Museum of American Art organized the first major retrospective of the artist’s work, firmly establishing Judd as a star of the art world.
Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, Judd continued to use simple, repeated forms in his pieces, producing profoundly groundbreaking sculptures and installations that challenged the European sculptural convention by eschewing both illusion and representation. As Judd commented on his work, “I am not interested in the kind of expression that you have when you paint a painting with brush strokes. It’s all right, but it’s already done and I want to do something new. I didn’t want to get into something which is played out and narrow. I want to do as I like, invent my own interests.” During this period, Judd, with support from the Dia Art Foundation, began buying property in Marfa, Texas, where he eventually produced a large body of sculptures and installations. These, and large-scale works by several of Judd’s contemporaries, are now maintained by the Chinati Foundation and the Judd Foundation.
Throughout the end of the twentieth century, Judd’s work continued to be recognized as both significant and revolutionary, with major retrospectives at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1975); The Whitney Museum, New York (1988); and the Tate Modern, London (2004). The artist died in Manhattan of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1994.