Judd on Phenomena

Rutgers Art Review, vol. 23, 2007, pp. 79–99

22 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2020

See all articles by Adrian Kohn

Adrian Kohn

Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Date Written: September 1, 2007


Donald Judd’s 1964 essay 'Specific Objects' probably remains his most well-known. In it, he described new artworks characterized by, among other features, 'a quality as a whole' instead of conventional 'part-by-part structure,' the 'use of three dimensions' and 'real space' as opposed to depiction, 'new materials [that] aren’t obviously art,' and the unadorned appearance and 'obdurate identity' of materials as they are. Judd held that the 'shape, image, color and surface' of these objects were more 'specific,' that is to say, 'more intense, clear and powerful,' than in previous art. While these positions demonstrate Judd’s subjective preferences as an artist and art critic, they also convey some of the wider debates driving American avant-garde practices in the 1960s, such as the supposed 'insufficiencies of painting and sculpture' as mediums. Art historians tend to find such breadth appealing of course - sweeping statements bring retrospective order to what was actually haphazard and unruly. But Judd knew that you lose much in eliminating complexity for the sake of clarity. He emphasized this point in his earlier essay 'Local History' so as to qualify the more general of his own arguments. 'The history of art and art’s condition at any time are pretty messy,' he declared. 'They should stay that way.'

Keywords: Donald Judd, Adrian Kohn, Jackson Pollock, John Chamberlain, Lee Bontecou, Claes Oldenburg, Josef Albers, Larry Poons, Victor Vasarely, Karl Gerstner, Gerald Oster, Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel, GRAV, Dan Flavin, Robert Irwin, Larry Bell

Suggested Citation

Kohn, Adrian, Judd on Phenomena (September 1, 2007). Rutgers Art Review, vol. 23, 2007, pp. 79–99, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2088648

Adrian Kohn (Contact Author)

Massachusetts College of Art and Design ( email )

621 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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