judd Donald Judd, Untitled, 1968. Stainless steel and plexiglass, 33 × 68 × 48 in. (83.8 × 172.7 × 121.9 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Donald Judd (1928 – 1994) & Minimalism

What is this love of simplicity that gave us the great barren art form of minimalism and its regressive culmination in the blankness of a simpleton? The real master it serves is industry because simple is just cheaper to make = a straight line is easier to copy = a dull brain is easier to rule.

Minimalism or art that attains purity through simplification, (which is pretty pretentious if you ask me) is in grave danger of making that sorrowful architectural mistake called modernization, which banished the gothic arch, the most important design since the pyramids, replacing it with the skyscraper and its warren of little square rooms—replacing the collective gathering in the great hall with privacy. Jails use the same motif of separation—divide and conquer. People do go mad trapped in a box—Donald Judd’s box is solitary confinement from without, which is about as pure as a hair shirt.

There are constructions that are sublime: the Gothic Arch, the pyramid, the Peruvian Lintel, all doorways to the jungle of the mind of a God who doesn’t speak our language- but the box—unless it’s holding up my drink and the New Yorker—is a hideously inorganic shape with connotations that are anything but pure. It’s menacing and closed with an inside that is unknown, either the beginning of a horror movie or the curses Pandora released. Alchemists called the circle infinity, from the shape of ancient planets to our tiny modern cell. The Tibetans say the triangle is energy, the arrow of man’s intent or reversed, the depth of female emotions. But they labeled as Brute Force the box—Judd’s favorite thing to make and my least favorite thing to see.

Man considers the square superior because he invented it, but as an object, the straight line is static whereas nature’s curve grows and is reborn. The right angle can build, but construction and its desire to out last, to remain forever, continues perversely until finally nature’s vines crumble it. When growth walks with death do we smile with tears? But lets talk about art and the increasing stupefying of its audience. The Color Field painters have the audacity to say that we are moved looking at nothing but red paint, that they have, through simplification, accomplished the sublime. We are told it is what we bring to the art: So, Mr. Judd, does your row of boxes symbolize our progress from birthday presents to the final box or coffin? No it means a row of boxes, you fool, can’t you see how they are altering gallery space?

There is something wrong with being asked to contemplate something as lifeless as a steel box. Are we morons that we must stare at the same square block I had to contemplate in nursery school? Is the concept of beauty or emotional balance just too complicated for us? Are we so afraid of making a mistake, we would rather stare at a square dot?

Artillery Magazine Vol 7 Issue 3 Jan-Feb 2013

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