Perhaps the question I am asked most frequently is, “What’s your favorite work in the Joslyn collection?” As chief curator, I suppose the proper reply would be an enthusiastic, “All of them!” but time and time again, I answer, “The Donald Judd.”
Untitled, 1982 embodies many of the things I most care about in art: consistency, rigor, and confidence. Precision that belies randomness or accident. Restrained elegance. A language that speaks clearly of its time.
We all drag our autobiography along when looking at art, or reading, or listening to music, and Untitled always reminds me of a 2004 trip to the Chinati Foundation, a museum established by the artist in Marfa, Texas. Few understand the western landscape as well as Judd and Walter De Maria (whose The Lightning Field graces the high desert in western New Mexico), and little compares to looking out at the heat shimmering along the Texas horizon from the cool interior of a gallery filled with 50 of Judd’s identical aluminum boxes.
For all of the well-reasoned explanations that can be offered for why one does or should care about an artist or their work, though, much of it is ineffable. I can think of no better justification than that offered by King Crimson, in their meticulously reckless song “Indiscipline:”
The more I look at it
The more I like it.
I do think it’s good.
The fact is
No matter how closely I study it
No matter how I take it apart
No matter how I break it down
It remains consistent.
I wish you were here to see it.