Twentieth-century artist and architect Donald Judd didn’t want his masterpieces traveling around like an artsy circus.
"In Marfa, Texas, he set up 16 buildings with his art as he wanted it to be seen," says Ellen Salpeter, director of the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Miami and Judd Foundation board member. “He was known as the father of the permanently installed space, and it is a pilgrimage and journey to see it.”
In addition to maintaining his wildly artsy compound in Marfa — which displays modernist and period furniture, large-scale architectural projects, early paintings from the '50s and '60s, and other pieces — Judd also had a private living space and studio in New York City, which is now open to guests.
But beyond these permanent houses, some rare items trickle out into museum shows across the nation. And some truly remarkable work, paired with a great backstory, is being housed at the ICA.
The exhibition "Donald Judd: Paintings" presents 14 paintings created by the artist between 1959 and 1961, which were vital transitional years for Judd in his experimentation in form and color. These experimentations ultimately helped form the ways he represented space and color across so many mediums.
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As for the paintings themselves, though they might seem simplistic, Judd fans will see some prevailing patterns and colors that were later prevalent in other forms. In addition to showing paintings, the ICA will display one of Judd’s sculptures, Untitled (1964).
“Many of these pieces have not been seen by the public ever, and what an opportunity for us,” says Salpeter, who co-curated the exhibit alongside Judd’s son, Flavin, and the ICA’s chief curator, Alex Gartenfeld. “These pieces were in storage in Texas, and the foundation and Judd family granted us permission to show the work.”
How does this exhibition fit into the ICA’s broader mission and current times?
"Our goal and mission is to present the most important art of our time and to ensure whatever we represent is relevant to the world around us," Salpeter says. "Painting has seen a resurgence. If you go to museums today, it can feel like people stopped painting in the '70s and '80s. I think when the public sees Judd’s work from then, they’ll say, ‘Wow, that is not what I think of when I think of Donald Judd.’ It gives them insight and a new appreciation of everything that’s out there."
"Donald Judd: Paintings." Thursday, April 5, through July 15 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, 61 NE 41st St., Miami; icamiami.org. Admission is free.