Posts Tagged 'Donald Judd'

Marfa State of Mind

marfa

Marfa, Texas is more than just those mysterious lights (though they are pretty magical). I was lucky enough to visit the artistic oasis recently, and though I never left the state of Texas, I truly felt like I was transported to another place and time. Marfa is a small city located in the high desert of far west Texas, near Big Bend National Park. Founded in the early 1880s as a railroad stop, the town was transformed into a cultural destination thanks to artist Donald Judd. Upon relocating to Marfa from New York City in 1971, Judd acquired the decommissioned Fort D.A. Russell and began transforming the site’s buildings into exhibition spaces. His intention was to create a location in which he could permanently install his artwork and present it to the public.

It takes a great deal of time and thought to install work carefully. This should not always be thrown away. Most art is fragile and some should be placed and never moved again.” –Donald Judd

Judd’s ideas took shape as The Chinati Foundation formally opened to the public in 1986. When I first visited the museum I was struck by the absolute vastness of the space.

The Chinati Foundation

The Chinati Foundation

The Chinati Foundation is located on 340 acres of land. The art collection includes 15 outdoor concrete works by Donald Judd, 100 aluminum works by Judd housed in two converted artillery sheds, 25 sculptures by John Chamberlain, an installation by Dan Flavin occupying six former army barracks, and works by Carl Andre, Ingólfur Arnarsson, Roni Horn, Ilya Kabakov, Richard Long, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, David Rabinowitch, and John Wesley. Each artist’s work is installed in a separate building on the museum’s grounds. When Judd renovated the buildings, he attempted to retain the integrity of the original structures as much as possible, only adding components that he deemed necessary. One of these was windows: the walls of the converted artillery sheds feature floor to ceiling windows. This alteration maximizes natural light and space and allows the surrounding landscape to meet and converse with the aluminum boxes that reside inside the sheds.

The location of The Chinati Foundation site–named after the surrounding Chinati Mountains–was extremely important to Judd, who, as a minimalist artist, believed strongly in creating works which are inextricably linked with the surrounding landscape. Judd fell in love with the desert landscape surrounding Marfa, and saw it as the perfect space for his art. “Too often,” Judd said, “the meaning of a work of art is lost as a result of a thoughtless or unsuitable placement of the work for display. The installation of my own work, for example, as well as that of others, is contemporary with its creation, and the space surrounding the work is crucial to it. Frequently as much thought has gone into the placement of a piece as into the piece itself.” (Quote from the Judd Foundation)

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1988 Dallas Museum of Art, Museum League Purchase Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, H. Harold Wineburgh Fund and gift of an anonymous donor

My trip to magical Marfa opened my eyes to the artistic passion and work of Donald Judd, but on a larger scale, it also invited me to reflect upon the decisions behind how works of art are displayed. I think of Judd’s Untitled piece that the DMA owns: six symmetrically divided rectangular boxes forming a column over eighteen feet high, made from cool industrial surfaces. My only experience with this work of art is seeing it displayed inside the white walls of the DMA, alongside work from other artists.

The time I spent in Marfa not only made me wonder how this particular Judd work would look exhibited alone against a desert backdrop, but furthermore, it made me question whether more works of art should be exhibited in the Judd manner–surrounded only by works from that artist and in a structure that complements its artistic intent.

I now turn this question to the public: is there a work of art in the DMA’s collection that you would like to see exhibited differently? And if so, how would you like to see it displayed?

Artwork Shown:

  • Donald Judd, Untitled, 1988, Dallas Museum of Art, Museum League Purchase Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, H. Harold Wineburgh Fund and gift of an anonymous donor

Danielle Schulz
Teaching Specialist

Focus on: Nobuo Sekine

For the past few months, Japanese sculptor Nobuo Sekine’s (b. 1942) works have been on view in the Marguerite and Robert Hoffman Galleries. For those of you who haven’t seen them yet, or are still wondering what these works are all about, this blog post is for you.

Phase No. 10 (1968), Phase of Nothingness-Water (1969/2005), and Phase of Nothingness-Cloth and Stone (1970/1994) were originally created in the late 1960s, and what they have in common is the word “phase” in their title. In order to understand these works better, let’s first talk briefly about global art trends in the late 1960s and then explore the idea of “phase” that so interested Sekine.

In the early 1960s, artists such as Richard Serra, Donald Judd, and Robert Morris made a clear shift away from the gestural quality of abstract expressionism (Jackson Pollock) and embraced a more minimal aesthetic. Minimalist art was intended to discard the emotionality of the past along with all non-essential formal elements related to the art object. The resulting work took shape as hard-edge geometric volumes created with industrial materials that showed little-to-no evidence of the artist’s hand in its making. As minimal sculpture evolved, artists in the late 1960s began moving outside the white cube of the gallery and museum space to create large-scale outdoor works that used the earth itself as the medium. Known as Land Art, this movement was closely associated with the work of Robert Smithson, Michael Heitzer, and others. It is within this transitional moment between minimalism and Land Art that the work of Sekine Nobuo and the Mono-ha movement in Japan came into being.

Phase Mother Earth (1968/2012) (Photo courtesy of artspacetokyo.com)

The term Mono-ha (meaning “School of Things”) encompassed a variety of different forms and approaches, but at its core the short-lived movement explored the encounter between natural and industrial objects. Using natural materials such as stone, wood, and cotton in their unadulterated states, in conjunction with wire, light bulbs, glass, and steel plates, the work of Mono-ha artists presented objects “just as they are,” with the hope of bridging the gap between the human mind and the material world.

The tenets of Mono-ha are most clearly embodied in Nobuo Sekine’s famous outdoor sculpture Phase Mother Earth (1968/2012). Often cited as the beginning of the Mono-ha movement, Sekine’s sculpture consists of a 2.2 meter-tall cylinder of earth positioned beside a hole of the exact same dimensions. While clearly in dialogue with other American and European Land Art of the time, the modest scale of Sekine’s work invites the viewer to experience the earth simply as earth rather than as a grand artistic gesture writ large across the landscape.

Phase No. 10, Nobuo Sekine, 1968, Steel, lacquer, and paint, The Rachofsky Collection and the Dallas Museum of Art through the DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund

Sekine’s Phase-Mother Earth is closely related to the artist’s previous sculptures exploring the mathematical field of topology. Topology is a field of spatial geometry in which space and materials are considered malleable and can undergo countless transformations from one “phase” (state) to another without adding or subtracting from the original form/materials. In Sekine’s words, “a certain form can be transformed continually by methods such as twisting, stretching, condensing, until it is transformed into another.” This idea of manipulating form and space can be seen in Sekine’s work Phase No. 10 (1968) currently on view at the DMA. This wall-mounted sculpture closely resembles a Mobius strip, and when viewed head-on it appears to be a flat, curvilinear design, but when viewed at an angle the sculpture juts out from the wall, creating an optical illusion.

Phase of Nothingness—Water, Nobuo Sekine, 1969/2005, Steel, lacquer, and water, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund

The work Phase of Nothingness—Water (1968) continues Sekine’s engagement with topology. To illustrate these ideas, the artist juxtaposed two equivalent shapes—a cylinder and a rectangle—both containing the same volume of water. At first glance, it doesn’t appear that the shallow rectangular tank and the tall cylindrical tank both hold the exact same amount of water. Similar to his earlier outdoor sculpture Phase—Mother Earth, this work attempts to depict a sense of equivalence and emphasizes the continuity of form and material. These two shapes are not meant to be seen as opposites but as equals. As Sekine explains, “[T]he mass of the universe neither increases nor decreases. This is the universe of eternal sameness. When one becomes aware of this, then the futility of modern concepts of creation can be realized.”

I hope this blog helps explain some of the fascinating (and at times complicated) ideas that inform Sekine’s sculpture. The exhibition closes Sunday, so plan your visit to the DMA before it’s too late!

Gabriel Ritter is The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art.

An Introduction by Way of Road Trip

As the newest member of the DMA’s curatorial team, I thought I would take the opportunity to introduce myself to the online community. I am from Los Angeles and have been actively engaged with contemporary art in one way or another for the past ten years. While in Los Angeles, I worked as the director of Blum & Poe gallery and then as a Curatorial Assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Most recently, I’ve been working on my Ph.D. in art history at UCLA, and for the past year I was a Japan Foundation Doctoral Fellow, researching at the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. As the new Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, I will be in charge of the ongoing Concentrations series, which organizes exhibitions of work by emerging and under-represented artists.

Gabriel Ritter, The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the DMA

Being new to Texas, I thought a cross-country drive would be a great way to familiarize myself with my new surroundings. On our way from Los Angeles to Dallas, my wife and I decided to make a pilgrimage to the city of Marfa in West Texas, which the minimalist artist Donald Judd called home. As many of you know, the city houses both the Judd Foundation, which oversees the artist’s private estate, as well as the Chinati Foundation, which Judd founded as a contemporary art museum that presents large-scale, permanent public art installations by Judd and by artists Judd selected, including Carl Andrea, John Chamberlin, Dan Flavin, Roni Horn, Ilya Kabakov, and John Wesley, among others. For me, a highlight of our visit was the rare glimpse into Judd’s private life. Seeing his neatly organized studio spaces used for contemplation and his winter bedroom adorned with his collection of Native American jewelry and pottery was a treat. In addition, walking through Donald Judd’s untitled works in mill aluminum (1982-1986) was a transformative experience. Installed in two former artillery sheds, which Judd adapted specifically to house this installation, the work consists of one hundred unique sculptural iterations that utilize the same outer dimension of 41 x 51 x 72 inches. Natural light floods the two sprawling exhibition halls and reflects off the metallic volumes in a way that continues to change as you walk through the space.

The road to Marfa (and ultimately Dallas) took us through Phoenix, El Paso, Midland, and Abilene. On the way, we stopped by Elmgreen and Dragset’s roadside installation titled Prada Marfa (2005), which feels as if it dropped out of the sky. Literally in the middle of nowhere, with miles and miles of open road to either side, the installation mimics the Italian fashion brand’s posh boutiques but is in fact a nonfunctional storefront. At first we almost missed it and drove right past it, but then I quickly turned around so we could grab a shot of this mirage-like space on the highway. If you ever find yourself on I-90, stop by and check it out.

Prada Marfa (2005)

All-in-all it was a fun road trip and a great way to see the Texas countryside. We also enjoyed some great Tex Mex cuisine and even caught a concert at the local bar in Marfa. Now that I am settled in at the DMA, this will hopefully be the first of many blog posts focusing on contemporary art. I look forward to your comments, and I hope to meet you during your next visit to the Museum.

Gabriel Ritter is The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art.


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