Donald Judd at MoMA

His works had a lasting effect on the universal language of modern sculpture. Amongst artists such as Robert Morris and Dan Flavin, he is regarded as the leading representative of Minimalism, an extreme continuation of the 1960s American Abstract art movement. Donald Judd’s most extensive US retrospective to date and the first in 32 years: “Judd” opened on March 1st at MoMA in the midst out the Covid-19 outbreak in New York. Less than two weeks after its inauguration the museum announced its temporary closure and the retrospective is now available to experience online on MoMA’s website.

As Judd famously rejected any topical review of his work outside of his own writing, the concept behind the retrospective exhibition remains approachable and straightforward. Yet its significance is not lost on the Judd connoisseur. The large-scale sculptures are rarely presented in such quantity and harmonious dialogue with each other. Demanding space due to the sheer scale of the works, they present difficulties when installing. The 70 works exhibited at MoMA are therefore, a rare opportunity to experience the artist’s vision as a whole.

The show surveys the evolution of his practice through a detailed review, dividing the large body of work presented, into four physical spaces that recall four stages of the artist’s production. In chronological order, the exhibition explores the artist’s departure from his writing and experimental paintings of the early 1960s, to his signature forms of what we now would identify as modern sculpture. At the time, sculpture was limited to a traditional framework of figurative representation. Abstract minimalist artists such as Judd, who was vocal about referring to his works as paintings, ultimately reinvented sculpture as a medium for generations of artists to come.

Judd’s serial works were committed to the basic form, often reminiscent of shelving, boxes, or hollow frames they developed signature titles such as “Bullnose” or “Progressions”. His presumably most famous format, iron boxes fixated on the wall, stacked above each other in equal distance, was referred to as “Stacks”. The exhibition outlines Judd’s exploration of these forms, utilising different medium and colour explorations throughout the years. Presenting the continuous repetition and combinations of these signature forms the exhibition allows for a unique experience to encounter Judd’s works as intended by the late artist. In the minds of the representatives of Minimalistic art, specifically Donald Judd, the works are supposed to be encountered with a primitive approach, without the expectation of finding a translation or more profound meaning. In the words of curator Ann Temkin: “There is nothing that you need to bring to that experience except your own thoughts and your own sense of your body and space.”

Additionally, to the contextual material on MoMA’s website, visitors can experience a virtual tour of the exhibition remotely from home as part of the museum’s new digital initiative “Virtual Views”. Every Thursday MoMA provides exclusive new access to its collections and current exhibitions.

Installation view

Installation view

Installation view

Installation view