Beyond the city, what is out there? Judd and small town in desert!

Love Letter to Small Town

I am a city mouse. I was born in a big city and grew up there throughout my life. Probably the long urbanite life gave birth to my everlasting small-town fantasy. Or Confucian old masters’ poetry about nature which I had to memorize in high school was the beginning. Such a dream does not cross everyone’s mind, but it grew in me immensely and burst out on my first visit to Marfa, Texas.

It was no New York or London. Far away from the city, stars were brightly shining in the clear night sky, and the whole town was filled with America’s iconic modern and contemporary artworks. The desolate, void landscape of West Texas presented the infinite possibility of displaying art that white cube galleries were incapable of. I rushed to look for internship programs in Marfa, though I wound up not applying any of them. I was not ready to go on with a spontaneous decision.

Judd artwork
Credit: Judd Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Now, Donald Judd. What Did You Do in Marfa?

All in all, I admire artists who pulled off a bold move transitioning from big city to small town with their artistic ambition, like Donald Judd. The oddest thing in Marfa was Donald Judd’s large-scale outdoor sculptures, the concrete cubes in the middle of grassland. The extensive raw desert was his canvas. One would have to walk about 3 kilometers to get closer to this industrial mass. Truth is once you stand before his immense work, it is impossible to take your eyes off of it. I instantly inspected every corner of the piece and turned my eyes onto the bizarre surroundings. Like I said, there was nothing but withered grass and nature. Despite its eccentric harmony, I would soon find it perfectly fit there. Some people use the word ‘whimsical’ to describe its out-of-place-setting, but to my sense, it was close to ‘serene’ or ‘meditative’.

Judd hometown
Credit: My 2 Cents

After the retrospective show at Guggenheim in the 60’s, Donald Judd sought “clean” settings to showcase his artworks (Sides). The “clean” setting that does not interrupt anyone’s view with title or wall label, but enables viewers to solely focus on the moment and experience created by art. Plus, accessibility was another aspect he took into consideration when planning this new work of art. According to

“He was thinking about places where art could be seen by everybody for free, made by a lot of different people who all shared this one idea about making a thing in place.”

What Judd Envisioned…

To accomplish his ambition, Judd was destined to move to Marfa, Texas. As grand as his vision, he meticulously planned this art project and achieve the coherence of architecture, art, and nature. 40 years later, here we are.

According to his daughter, the president of the Judd Foundation’s board, Donald Judd disliked to be categorized under Minimalism and shared one story:

“I would say, ‘Where are the trees? There aren’t any trees here,'” Judd remembers. “The reason I mention trees is he would say, ‘If you look out here, you can actually see the shape of the land, where if it’s covered with trees you can’t see it.’ And I think about the way he would talk about his work in defense, when people would call it minimalist and he didn’t like that description. Just in the way that the desert is extremely rich and beautiful and it doesn’t have a lot of trees, I think he was interested in creating extremely rich work that didn’t have a lot of trees,”

When I think of desert, the image of ‘paused in time’ comes to mind, which is probably why I keep thinking modern artwork beneath the desert sky is odd and eccentric. However, the intriguing irony left an unforgettable, vivid memory in my heart. It was like a pipe dream.


Written by Joomi lee, BBuzzArt Marketing

This article was published for artists and art enthusiasts by BBuzzArt.

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Author: Joomie Lee

Marketing, BBuzzArt

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