I’ve been a long-time fan of Donald Judd’s and have researched him quite a bit over the years, reading various snippets here and there online and in books, also attending an exhibition that featured a few of his pieces. It occurred to me last week that we hadn’t really showcased his works properly here on the site, which seemed quite rude, so I decided to put something together that would give you a feel for his furniture in-particular, although he did cover other creative fields in his lifetime.
The American is considered one of the most important 20th century artists and was a main character in regard to ‘Minimal Art’, but he also expanded in to architecture and design. One area that I think he really surpassed himself in was furniture design, which he applied himself to quite heavily after moving to Marfa, Texas. It turned out he needed tables, chairs and a children’s bed for his small house but was unable to buy the exact furniture that met his requirements. As with all good creatives, it always starts with a problem that needs to be solved, so he decided to design and make his own. The standard 12″ size timber that you get from local timber merchants served as the basic module for the first piece of furniture, the children’s bed, due to him being unable to shorten the pieces himself (the merchants could do it for him). Later on he worked with a carpenter and even opted to experiment with metal, for which he largely used sheet aluminium which was produced in different colours, killing two birds with one stone.
Although an artist, Donald was intent on his furniture not being seen as ‘art’ but as proper furniture that functioned well, with him once saying, “If a chair or a building is not functional … it is ridiculous.” I personally agree with his ideology. What I find intriguing is the assumption amongst people that he made cheap furniture with no substance. I took this quiz once where you had to tell the difference between so called lesser-quality furniture and Donald Judd pieces, and it seemed a bit ridiculous to say the least. The whole point of Donald’s furniture derived from his need to create something for himself out of materials that he could source locally, for his own family. Not because he was trying to make ‘designer’ furniture. It’s quite amusing how people judge before they discover and look in to someones background, you usually find your answer and it makes you look at the works in an alternate light.
Unfortunately, the Donald Judd Foundation website, as good as it is, doesn’t offer larger imagery of any sort, so I thought I’d quickly take a few snaps from Die Neue Sammlung’s website. They had some great photographs from an exhibition featuring Donald Judd’s work titled ‘A good chair is a good chair’ that took place in 2011. Although older in date it showcases his furniture in a nice light and I thought that the quotes on the wall were an interesting touch next to the furniture, set off the whole exhibit with its minimal decor. Hopefully you’ll go off and explore a bit more, Donald’s quite a fascinating individual.