Visiting Donald Judd’s Foundation on Spring Street was quite different than I expected it to be. I thought that the space would feel like a museum and that it would be a more conventional-feeling tour. While I certainly learned a lot, I liked the way in which it still felt lived in. There was not a stiffness to the space. This allowed me to view the space in a more realistic manner to how Judd actually lived during his time there.
Judd’s beliefs and values were definitely noticeable in the way he refined his living space. He felt connected to a certain aesthetic and believed in the concept of permanent installation. We saw this in how Judd did not, as the tour guide described it, “replace or renovate” but rather refined details and fixed things that needed to be, such as the floors and ceilings on some of the levels of the space.
Furthermore, the way in which Judd fashioned his furniture was also telling of his artistic endeavors. It made sense to me how Judd wanted to be surrounded by things which inspired him. Although it may seem different because of Judd’s popularity, we follow the same methods in decorating our own homes. We pick out furniture that suits our needs and visual interests. We pick out or make works of art that inspire us, or are pleasing or interesting to look at. I think that before going into the tour, and especially after reading Specific Objects, I thought that Judd’s ideas seemed obscure and perhaps even aloof. As the tour progressed, I began noting how his concepts and decorations were not as far-fetched and grandiose as I had originally thought. The more we toured, the more I registered with his ideas. For instance, the rectilinear quality and emphasis on diagonals are reoccurring in Judd’s work, so to see the similarities reflected in the objects in the rooms, as with the chairs, made me understand his concepts on a more intimate and conclusive level.
The room that I responded to the most was Judd’s bedroom. I believe this space was a great example of his ideas and values as an artist. Judd surrounded himself with artists whose artistic principles he aligned himself with, like Dan Flavin. Flavin’s installation served as a sort of centerpiece to the room. When lit, it transformed the space in a dramatic way. Seeing Flavin’s work at Dia:Beacon in a museum environment beforehand though, made it seem slightly odd to see in a bedroom.
There was a sparseness to the rooms, which felt strange from my perspective. In my own house, and I’m sure in a lot of other people’s, there is a fair amount of clutter. So it was refreshing to see how Judd did not intend for a lot of excess. Everything had its place.
The architecture of the building was also important. It is a cast iron building that has an industrial feel to it, making it feel slightly flagrant against the backdrop of the rest of SoHo’s modern buildings. Although it was not overwhelmingly flashy, I wonder just how different the landscape would have been when Judd was living here.
It was really exciting to get to see this site because often times art can feel exclusive. This felt very personal, almost as if we were friends visiting Judd’s space. I even got some ideas of how to remodel my room. 🙂
(cover photo courtesy of archello.com)