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New books reveal Donald Judd’s words and ideas

Deciphering artist’s scrawl was “no easy task”, says his son

by Julia Halperin  |  2 March 2016
New books reveal Donald Judd’s words and ideas
As well as art, Donald Judd wrote prolifically about architecture, design and politics. James Dearing © Judd Foundation Archive
More than 40 rare and unpublished texts by the artist Donald Judd will be given new life in a book due to be released in October. Donald Judd: Writings includes never-before-seen letters, college papers and hundreds of unpublished notes alongside Judd’s most famous essays, such as Una Stanza Per Panza, his polemic against the Italian collector, Giuseppe Panza.

The Judd Foundation hopes the book will increase interest in Judd as a critic and writer ahead of his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2017, the first US survey of his work since 1988. “I think Don has unfairly, just by the style of his work, been seen as this one-sided entity,” says Flavin Judd, the artist’s son and co-president of the Judd Foundation. “But he had lots of different interests and ways of thinking.”

The 900-page book ($39.95), co-published by the foundation and David Zwirner Books, includes texts from 1958 to 1993, the year before the artist’s death. Judd opines not only on art, but also on architecture, design and politics. To prepare the book, Flavin Judd and the foundation’s archivist dug through 17 boxes of unpublished materials, many of which were handwritten. Deciphering the artist’s scrawl was “no easy task”, he says.

Until the 1960s, Judd was best known as a critic. Surprisingly, however, all five books he compiled during his life have been out of print until this month. The Judd Foundation has announced that it is reprinting Donald Judd: Complete Writings 1959-75 (nicknamed “The Yellow Book” for its bright cover) on 22 March as a teaser for the release of the larger volume.

Judd’s dry humour and opinionated, often obdurate personality shine through regardless of his intended audience, Flavin Judd says. One surprisingly riveting letter, which will be made public for the first time in October, was written in support of fellow artist Yayoi Kusama’s visa application. “He’s explaining why Kusama was a good artist,” he says. “He’s writing for a bureaucrat, but he’s making a damn good case.”

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