How Did DONALD JUDD Come Up with All Those Boxy Sculptures?

DONALD JUDD may have become one of the champions of minimalism, but he loathed the term, preferring instead the expression “specific object.” Judd was a craftsman, one who fought hard to achieve an aesthetic position against symbolic expression. Yet although his sculptures were devoted abstractions, the artist created them through a series of rigorous depictions and illustrated instructions, visible in his drawings and fabrication notes, 35 of which will be on view at Sprüth Magers Berlin beginning Saturday, March 15.

Working Papers: Donald Judd Drawings, 1963–93 is curated by Peter Ballantine, who, since 1969, has specialized in almost all aspects of the artist’s work. In the earliest ones Judd is still working out (or rejecting) sculptural ideas he would make himself. Later drawings are Judd’s part of the fabrication process—simultaneously the original of the work and not comparable to the real thing at all. The largest (and most formal) drawings in the show were made after the actual works had already been completed, like a guarded but quietly charged “portraiture.”

To see Judd’s “hand” at work and his graphic illustration that’s otherwise deliberately absent from his objects is to see pre-art historical graphics. They are sketches marked out as both instruction and idea, depictions and anti-depictions that sabotage pictorial representation while communicating enough.

Working Papers: Donald Judd Drawings, 1963–93 is on view at Sprüth Magers Berlin from March 15 until April 12, 2014. 

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