STUDIO | DONALD JUDD

101 Spring Street, Donald Jud d | Photograph by Elizabeth Felicella

101 Spring Street, Donald Judd | Photograph by Elizabeth Felicella

The given circumstances were very simple: the floors must be open; the right angle of windows on each floor must not be interrupted; and any changes must be compatible.
— Donald Judd

It was 1968 when Judd purchased a 5-storey cast-iron building at 101 Spring Street. Over the next 25 years, he would renovate the spaces floor by floor, adeptly, with the precision and curatorial eye so evident in his art, and with an immense understanding of the hand of the architect, Nicholas Whyte, who had laid the bones of the building.

Into the vast open spaces he placed objects of personal value, eclectic but also purposefully considered for the space: a 19th-century wood-burner, Aalvar Alto chairs, bend steel sculptures by his own hand. He replaced the windows with double glazing, to protect the art against the dangers of condensation, removed sprinklers, lined shelves with jars and plates as if the everyday utensils were themselves part of some larger art. 

He reflected on the process and place in a 1989 essay entitled, simply, 101 Spring Street, which was reproduced here in Places Journal in 2011. The sincerity and soft hand with which he discusses the project are revealing: the space and materials, rather than his actions upon them, are what give the project value. He does not cry out for attention, but seeks, continuously, to do right by the aesthetic, material and spatial practices available to him. 

As one of the first artists to set up in SoHo in 1968, Judd looked beyond the building, and became deeply involved in the urban politics of the place: co-founding Artists Against the Expressway, actively promoting the Artist-in-Residence destination which changed zoning laws to allow conversion of industrial spaces into live-work studios, and offering up the ground floor of 101 Spring Street for exhibitions, meetings, and performances.

All the energy and care that he projected outwards from his space at 101 Spring St has, some 20 years after his death, been quietly allowed to pour back in. In 2013 his children, Rainer and Flavin, completed their reworking of the building, with an even lighter hand than their father, to bring the building up to code and, in doing so, make it publicly accessible. 

The story of 101 Spring Street revolves around the lives of spaces, the interrelations of art, architecture, and the everyday. It is in the silences, the stillnesses of these great spaces that the value lies. The space is layered, and rich with occupation. But is also reveals something deeper about space, about the permanence of experience, and of how we might be able to capture aspects of a life, such as Judd's, in the way a space is formed, and filled up, and finally, in how it is allowed to breathe.

Everything from the first was intended to be thoroughly considered and to be permanent.
— Donald Judd

FRANK STELLA

Frank Stella , New York, 1959  - Hollis Frampton

Frank Stella, New York, 1959 - Hollis Frampton

My first introduction to post-painterly abstract artist Frank Stella was when I was about 9 or 10. As part of one of those classic and formative childhood school projects, we were asked to research an artist and then to produce work 'in-the-style-of'. I can't remember why, or how I came across his work in that pre-internet era, but I chose Frank Stella.

There were paintings with titles like 'Zambesi', jarring colours, and minimalist geometries which folded over one another, turning the page into a three-dimensional surface. I thought it was wildly exciting. Until this stage in life, my favourite artist had been Claude Monet - so Stella was a revelation. 

Now, my favourite Stella works are all about the parallel lines, in particular those making the shift from the precise and colourful to the imprecise and tonal. In these large-scale works, Stella imparts a depth to the space between the lines, which in turn gives the lines a quality of hovering, or buzzing in space. The lines are journeying tail-lights, rays conceived by squinting at the stars, or the strangely orderly formations on the inside of my eyelids. Whatever they are, in these works Stella masterfully moves us from the minimal to the spatial - a transition with architectural overtones.

This October, the Whitney will present the most comprehensive retrospective of his work yet. If only I could get there.

Ileana Sonnabend ,   1963   Private collection 

Ileana Sonnabend1963
Private collection 

Zembesi  , 1959.

Zembesi, 1959.

SPLASHING

Splashing. Richard Serra, 1968.

Splashing. Richard Serra, 1968.

Richard Serra's 1968 work Splashing is one of those inherently evocative works which takes on new lives through the different media it engages. 

The process of creation is embodied in the work: hardened lead thrown against the base of a wall when molten. Once solidified, we are invited to reconstruct Serra's action in our mind. The violence of his throw is brought to life through the 'after-image' - his  performance embedded in the object.

POSTCARDS OF AMBIGUITY

In this 'Postcard' series, Whiteread uses a hole punch to cut out negative spaces in the rooms, capturing the three-dimensional concerns of her sculptural form in a two-dimensional manner. The well-known touristic images are obscured by the cluster of circular abscesses, and they become ambiguous.  More of Rachel Whitereads' drawings at the Tate Britain courtesy of the Guardian here, with accompanying article here

Alongside the postcards are a collection of pseudo-technical drawings, including the revealing 'Study for "House"'. In this work, Whiteread uses an everyday and meaning-laden medium - correction fluid, or 'twink' - to simultaneously create and erase. The house is 'corrected' into a 'pure' whiteness, it becomes absent, yet at the same time, we are more aware of the space the object occupies after the 'intervention'. White is at once pure and ghostly, the house in the images becomes both nothing and, oddly, sky. 

Study for "House", 1992

Study for "House", 1992