One Hundred Boxes

Living with Donald Judd’s austere sculptures for a month convinced me I’d misunderstood them all these years.
Donald Judd, 100 Untitled Works In Mill Aluminum, 1982-1986, Detail Permanent Collection, The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas
Photograph by Florian Holzherr, 2002; Art copyright Judd Foundation. Licensed By Vaga, New York, New York

This is not an essay about Marfa. By now you’ve probably read an article or two about the place, breathless odes in a variety of publications—glossy monthlies, art journals, travel magazines, the New York Times. You’ve heard about how this tiny little one-traffic-light town, isolated in the high scrub just north of Big Bend, has become the improbable pleasure ground of the Euro-American art crowd, how galleries and boutiques and nice hotels and restaurants have opened there, how it’s been turned into an oasis, or perhaps a blight, in West Texas. I’m not going to talk about that at all.

This is an essay about space and time, and if that sounds even more dreadful, let me explain: I spent a month in Marfa last spring, as the grateful guest of the Chinati Foundation. They had invited me to stay in a bungalow on the grounds of a decommissioned Army base, which now serves as a 340-acre compound dedicated to the art of Donald Judd and the artists he loved and which hosts, on a semiformal basis, artists from out of town who need space and time to work.


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