Donald Judd

American minimalist artist (1928-1994)

Donald Clarence Judd (June 3, 1928February 12, 1994) was an American artist associated with minimalism.

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1977, Münster, Germany
Judd spring in Winterthur.



Half or more of the best new work in the last few years has been neither painting nor sculpture. –Donald Judd (1965).

  • ARTS is a somewhat conservative magazine but it is not uniformly, simply or blindly conservative, and the several conservative writers vary. And I am certainly not a conservative and neither is Miss Harrison. I decidedly disagree with the basic positions of Mr. Kramer, Miss Raynor and Mr. Tillim, though not with some of their evaluations, both of conservative and nonconservative artists. I think Ben Johnson's paintings, for example, are relatively uninteresting and powerless and that the work of some of the dop artists is full of true emotion.uninteresting and powerless and that the work of some of the dop artists is full of true emotion. The conservatism of Mr. Kramer and Mr. Mellow as successive editors lies only in the publication of more articles on conservative artists than on unconservative ones. Neither editors ever suggested to me that the magazine should have a uniform position or attempt to control my reviews, which are often contrary to Mr. Kramer’s opinions.
    • In: Arts Magazine, Vol. 38, (1963) p. 7
  • Any combining, mixing, adding, diluting, exploiting, vulgarizing, or popularizing of abstract art deprives art of its essence and depraves the artist's artistic consciousness. Art is free, but it is not a free-for-all. The one struggle in art is the struggle of artists against artists, of artist against artist, of the artist-as-artist within and against the artist-as- man, -animal, or -vegetable. Artists who claim their artwork comes from nature, life, reality, earth or heaven, as 'mirrors of the soul' or 'reflections of conditions' or 'instruments of the universe', who cook up 'new images of man' - figures and 'nature-in-abstraction' - pictures, are subjectively and objectively, rascals or rustics.
    • Donald Judd, in: American Dialog, Vol. 1-5, (1964), p. ix
  • Four years ago almost all of the applauded and selling art was New York School painting. It was preponderant in most galleries, which were uninclined to show anything new. The publications which praised it praised it indiscriminately and were uninterested in new developments. Much of the painting was by the "second generation" many of them epigones. Pollock was dead. Kline and Brooks had painted their last good paintings in 1956 and 1957. Guston's paintings had become soft and gray — his best ones are those around 1954 and 1955. Motherwell's and De Kooning's paintings were somewhat vague. None of these artists were criticized. In 1959 Newman's work was all right, and Rothko's was even better than before. Presumably, though none were shown in New York, Clyfford Still's paintings were all right. This lackadaisical situation was thought perfect. The lesser lights and some of their admirers were incongruously dogmatic : this painting was not only doing well but was the only art for the time. They thought it was a style. By now, it is.
    • Donald Judd, in: Arts Yearbook. (1964) p. 23
  • The history of art and art’s condition at any time are pretty messy. They should stay that way. One can think about them as much as one likes, but they won’t become neater; neatness isn’t even a very good reason for thinking about them. A lot of things just can’t be connected.
    • Donald Judd, "Local History" (1964); Quoted in: Judd (1975, p. 151); and cited in: David Raskin. Donald Judd. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.
  • Usually when someone says a thing is too simple they're saying that certain familiar things aren't there, and they're seeing a couple maybe that are left... But actually there may be... several new things to which they aren't paying attention. These may be quite complex... They may [also] be read all at once. This is important to most of the best work going on now. It has to have a wholeness to it that previous work didn't have, but still, within that, it's not all as simple as [people] say.
    • Donald Judd (1965) in Artforum interview, as quoted in: Richard Shiff (2012) Doubt,
  • I wanted work that didn't involve incredible assumptions about everything. I couldn't begin to think about the order of the universe or, the nature of American society. I didn't want work that was general or universal in the usual sense. I didn't want it to claim too much. Obviously the means and the structure couldn't be separate and couldn't even be thought of as two things joined. Neither word meant anything. A shape, a volume, a color, a surface is something itself. It shouldn't be concealed as part of a fairly different whole. The shapes and materials shouldn't be altered by their context.
    • Donald Judd (1967), in: Perspecta 11 (1967), p. 44; Quoted in: James Fitzsimmons (1979) Art International. Vol 23. p. 69
  • The main virtue of geometric shapes is that they aren't organic, as all art otherwise is. A form that's neither geometric or organic would be a great discovery.
    • Donald Judd (1967), quoted in: Alexander Alberro, ‎Blake Stimson (1999) Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology. p. 204
  • I object to several popular ideas. I don't think anyone's work is reductive. The most the term can mean is that new work doesn't have what the old work had. Its not so definitive that a certain kind of form is missing; a description and discussion of the kind present is pretty definitive.
    • Donald Judd, ‎William C. Agee (1968) Don Judd, p. 15
  • Obviously everyone is going to prefer kinds of art. I prefer art that isn't associated with anything and am tired of the various kinds of dada, and don't think, for example, that the work of Johns and Rauschenberg is so momentous. But it's good and I'm not at all inclined to rank them below every last abstract artist. And I know that their work has connections to so-called abstract work. (I don't like the word 'abstract'.) Or, I think American art is far better than that anywhere else but I don't think that situation is desirable. ** Donald Judd, in: Studio International, vol. 177, p. 182: As quoted in: James Meyer (2000) Minimalism. Vol 60 - 83, p. 245

"Specific Objects," 1965Edit

Donald Judd. "Specific Objects," in: Arts Yearbook, 8, 1965. pp. 74-77. Reprinted in Donald Judd, Complete Writings 1959-1975, Halifax: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1975, p. 184.

  • Half or more of the best new work in the last few years has been neither painting nor sculpture. Usually it has been related, closely or distantly, to one or the other. The work is diverse, and much in it that is not in painting and sculpture is also diverse. But there are some things that occur nearly in common.
    • p. 74; Lead paragraph; partly cited in: Diane Waldman. Carl Andre. Published 1970 by Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. p. 6
  • The new work obviously resembles sculpture more than it does painting, but it is nearer to painting.
    • p. 75; Cited in: Diane Waldman. Carl Andre. Published 1970 by Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. p. 6
  • A work can be as powerful as it can be thought to be. Actual space is intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface.
    • p. 76; As quoted in: De gids, Vol. 131, Nr. 1-5, (1968), p. 262
  • A work needs only to be interesting. Most works finally have one quality. In earlier art the complexity was displayed and built the quality. In recent painting the complexity was in the format and the few main shapes, which had been made according to various interests and problems. A painting by Newman is finally no simpler than one by Cezanne. In the three-dimensional work the whole thing is made according to complex purposes, and these are not scattered but asserted by one form. It isn't necessary for a work to have a lot of things to look at, to compare, to analyze one by one, to contemplate. The thing as a whole, its quality as a whole, is what is interesting. The main things are alone and are more intense, clear and powerful.
    • p. 77. Partly quoted in: Washington Gallery of Modern Art (Washington, D.C.), ‎Barbara Rose (1967) New aesthetic: Exhibition May 6-June 25, 1967. p. 45

"Oral history interview with Donald Judd," 1965Edit

In: Oral history interview with Donald Judd, February 3, 1965.

  • I am not interested in the kind of expression that you have when you paint a painting with brush strokes. It's all right, but it's already done and I want to do something new. I didn't want to get into something which is played out and narrow. I want to do as I like, invent my own interests. Of course, that doesn't mean that people who, like Newman, still paint are worn out. But I think that's a particular kind of experience involving a certain immediacy between you and the canvass, you and the particular kind of experience of that particular moment. I think what I'm trying to deal with is something more long range than that in a way, more obscure perhaps, more involved with things that happen over a longer time perhaps. At least it's another area of experience.
  • I think most of the art now is involved with a denial of any kind of absolute morality, or general morality. I think most of us in one way or another are involved in ideas of a fairly loose world, however it's expressed, whether obviously as in Chamberlain or just accidentally, or, oh, like Newman.
  • In any art there are a lot of technical things that you can get to like. Building is just skilled labor, I suppose. It's a lot of work. I don't mind other people building them, but the way things go together and are made is interesting to me; I like that a lot. I pay a lot of attention to how things are done and the whole activity of building something is interesting.


  • At that second exhibition I had to peer into them and look through the grayed color and wonder what it would be like not gray and then wonder what the forms would be like not crabbed by the figures and trees.
    • Donald Judd (1974), as quoted in: Joseph J. Rishel et al. (2009) Cézanne and beyond. p. 94: Talking about the work of Cezanne.


Untitled by Donald Judd, Tate Liverpool, 2012
'Untitled' — concrete sculpture by Donald Judd. At the Chinati Foundation - Marfa, Texas.
  • Since I leapt into the world an empiricist, ideality was not a quality I wanted.
    • Donald Judd in Art Journal, (1981); Quoted in: David Raskin. Donald Judd. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.
  • To begin again at the beginning in a proper philosophical manner, one person is a unity, and somehow, after the long complex process, a work of art is a similar unity. But the person is fairly unintelligible and the art is intelligible. Primarily what is intelligible is the nature of the artist, either of the past or now. The interests, thought and quality of the artist make the final total quality of the work.
    • Donald Judd (1983) in: Donald Judd (1987) Complete writings, 1975-1986. p. 28 ; Quoted in: "Archives" at, 2014
  • The better artists are original and obdurate; they're the gravel in the pea soup. ln Jackson Pollock's painting the particularity, the immediacy, is the dripped paint, which remains dripped paint as a phenomenon, for all the beauty of the small shapes it makes it makes. The generality is in the scale or proportion and in the large shapes. It’s in the appearance of chaos. The gesture or the motion shown in the application of the paint varies from painting to painting from the particular to a middling generality. The size and the color generally occur in the middle between particularity and generality. At the same time as Pollock and since, almost all first-rate art has been based on an immediate phenomenon, for example the work of Dan Flavin and Larry Bell.
    • Donald Judd (1987) Complete writings, 1975-1986. p. 35 : Cited in: Marjanovic, Marianne Berger. "To build new ways of talking about the work": Hovedbegreper i Donald Judds kunstteori." (2005).
  • It takes a great deal of time and thought to install work carefully. This should not always be thrown away. Most art is fragile and some should be placed and never moved again. Some work is too large, complex and expensive to move. Somewhere a portion of contemporary art has to exist as an example of what the art and its context were meant to be.
    • Donald Judd (1987) Complete writings, 1975-1986. p. 111
  • I object very much when my work is said to not be political, because my feelings about the social system are in there somewhere. The idea is to have it all in there together—you can’t pull it out.

"Art and Architecture," 1987Edit

"Art and Architecture," 1987 in: Donald Judd, ‎Marianne Stockebrand, Donald Judd, Architektur. ‎Westfälischer Kunstverein. (1989) p. 196

  • Art is simultaneously particular and general. This is a real dichotomy. The great thing about proportion, one aspect of art, is that it is both extremes at once. The level of quality of a work can usually be established by the extent of the polarity between its generality and particularity. Or, to state the idea a little too simply, the better the work, the more diverse its aspects. The nature of the general aspects and the particular ones changes from artist to artist and especially from time to time, since the changes are due to broad changes in philosophy. This change is the essential change in art, determining its purpose and appearance
    • p. 177
  • I'm not arguing, incidentally, for a confusion of art and architecture, a fashion now, but for a coherent relationship. Therefore, within the capacity of one person or of a small group, the relationship of all visible things should be considered.
    • p. 196


  • Material, space, and color are the main aspects of visual art. Everyone knows that there is material that can be picked up and sold, but no one sees space and color. Two of the main aspects of art are invisible; the basic nature of art is invisible.
    • In: Artforum International. Vol. 32 (1994), p. 38

"It’s Hard to Find a Good Lamp," 1993Edit

Donald Judd "It’s Hard to Find a Good Lamp" in: Donald Judd, Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen, Museum Villa Stuck. Donald Judd, furniture. Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, 1993. p. 21

  • Eighteen years ago someone asked me to design a coffee table. I thought that a work of mine which was essentially a rectangular volume with the upper surface recessed could be altered. This debased the work and produced a bad table which I later threw away. The configuration and the scale of art cannot be transposed into furniture and architecture. The intent of art is different from that of the latter, which must be functional. If a chair or a building is not functional, if it appears to be only art, it is ridiculous... A work of art exists as itself; a chair exists as a chair itself.
    • p. 7; Lead paragraph; as cited in: Richard Padovan. Towards Universality: Le Corbusier, Mies and De Stijl, (2013), p. 82
  • The art of a chair is not its resemblance to art, but is partly its reasonableness, usefulness and scale as a chair. These are proportion, which is visible reasonableness. The art in art is partly the assertion of someone's interest regardless of other considerations. A work of art exists as itself; a chair exists as a chair itself. And the idea of a chair isn't a chair."
    • p. 7; Quoted in: "Furniture" at, 2014
  • The furniture is comfortable to me. Rather than making a chair to sleep in or a machine to live it, it is better to make a bed. A straight chair is best for eating or writing. The third position is standing.
    • p. 21

Attributed from posthumous publicationsEdit

  • A simple box is really a complicated thing.

Quotes about Donald JuddEdit

  • Donald Judd spoke of a 'neutral' surface, but what is meant? Neutrality must involve some relationship (to other ways of painting, thinking?) He would have to include these in his work to establish the neutrality of that surface. He also used 'non' or 'not' – expressive – this is an early problem – a negative solution or – expression of new sense – which can help one into – what one has not known. 'Neutral' expresses an intention.
    • Jasper Johns (c. 1963), in Book A (sketchbook), p 31; as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 50
  • [reacting on Donald Judd who emphasis the 'whole' of an art work] But we’re still left with structural or compositional elements. The problems aren’t any different. I still have to compose a picture, and if you make an object [as Judd does] you have to organize the structure. I don’t think our work that radical in any sense because you don’t find any really new compositional or structural element. I don’t know if that exists. It’s like the idea of the color you haven’t seen before. Does something exist that’s as radical as a diagonal that’s not a diagonal? Or a straight line or a compositional element that you can’t describe?
    • Frank Stella (1966), in: 'Questions to [Frank} Stella and [Donald] Judd', Bruce Glaser, in 'Art New 65' no 5, September 1966
  • For my generation, Judd posed the same problem as Picasso did for the Abstract Expressionists; you either had to go over, under, around, or through him. Conceptual, process, and Earth Art, each in their own way, constituted a rejection of the ‘specific object'.
    • Mel Bochner (2005) in: David Raskin. Donald Judd. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010, p. 70

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