Tag Archives: Donald Judd

Honesty in Lines

(Left) Agnes Martin, Untitled #13 (1975); (right) Donald Judd, Untitled (1980)

(Left) Agnes Martin, Untitled #13 (1975); (right) Donald Judd, Untitled (1980)

Vulgarization of structure through a series of degenerations have led to the unsure gesture, atomized. The artist looks to start over. The entirety of society is questioned, but the questioning itself takes on the form of regression, and any form beyond the minimum becomes superfluous. Other forms acknowledge domination—at least they put their cards on the table: the artist is corporeal, but the artist’s techniques can’t cast off its conditions by means of the work’s interior forms.

Agnes Martin rises out of Abstract Expressionism, and we can see its search for the primitive and the Absolute. Her version meets Taoism and Zen Buddhism. From this view, it is clear she is not really a peer of the Minimalists. Her lines don’t pretend to be perfect, moreover they would destroy the paintings if they were. The true, imprecise gesture reveals its human touch. The ambivalent bars are so modest that they also restrict themselves in timidity, and the colors don’t wish to burden the painting too much. Spiritual asceticism holds its sway over these lines as well.

Donald Judd’s piece is well aware of its limitations. The work itself is based on the limits of human touch, because a list of instructions is the material for the process. We immediately recognize the alien exactitude of mechanical form. At first perhaps we can exclaim that the work’s naïve dream of reason and order cannot yet be realized here—that it must stay a fantasy. It’s naïvety, however, is more aware than it seems. The sculpture is arranged in the museum or studio so that, if only briefly, this dream of order might be vivified so that we might see it.