Donald Judd: Prints

Donald Judd: Prints

In October 2013, Chinati opened the special exhibition Donald Judd: Prints, the first comprehensive print exhibition by Donald Judd in an American museum. The works that were on view, 70 in all, date from 1960 to 1993.

Judd began as a painter. In 1960 he moved from the figurative tradition and started to develop his own characteristic, abstract paintings that were, in turn, superseded by three-dimensional objects a few years later. The prints in the exhibition followed that development and echoed concerns of both the paintings and the objects.

There are two particularly active phases of note: the early sixties (represented in the exhibition by eight prints in the central wing); and the period between the mid-eighties and the artist’s death in 1994. In the first years, the prints were conceived as single sheets, but by the late 1960s, most of them were done in series—typically 10 or more sheets—and occasionally as pairs. Such sequences made it possible to elaborate on ideas such as the division of the pictorial space, e.g., the rectangle of the sheet of paper.

The curved lines of the first prints, circa 1960, are close to Judd’s paintings in that the paint is applied thickly (in some cases, also on the back and front), evoking the paintings’ rough and palpable surfaces. The prints also show Judd’s interest in straight lines that regularly divide the pictorial space. Space and spacing became relevant concerns during these years and remained at the core of Judd’s entire work through the rest of his life.

The second of Judd’s notable print-making periods began in 1986 (shown in the exhibition in the two long wings). These works can be considered analogous to Judd’s three-dimensional objects in that an inner volume and outer frame are each distinguished, transferred onto flat paper. This motive remains prevalent and becomes varied by proportional divisions—halves, thirds, fourths and so on—along with horizontal and vertical divisions of increasingly complex line systems and color schemes. Thinner and thicker lines make grids of narrower and wider distances and of similar or contrasting colors in relation to the underlying base. The possibilities are numerous and demonstrate the rich potential of such few elements when they become combined. Judd’s preferred medium was woodcut, which he used right from the beginning; all the prints in this exhibition wee woodcut, except a pair of lithographs and a set of screen prints.

The exhibition likewise included a wall work consisting of two recesses in green plexiglass and various pieces of furniture that exemplify the closeness of Judd’s formulations across different media.

This special exhibition was curated by Marianne Stockebrand, Chinati’s Director Emerita.

Please visit the Judd Foundation’s online exhibition Donald Judd: Woodcuts for more on Judd’s four-decade engagement with wood block printing. Donald Judd: Woodcuts explores the ideas and techniques behind Judd’s four-decade engagement with wood block printing. As a printmaker, Judd investigated many of the same questions of form and color that we find in his paintings and three-dimensional works. Judd’s long-term work with prints as well as his large collection of works by master printmakers attest to his belief that printmaking is as serious a form of art as painting or sculpture.