Donald Judd slept a lot. After spending a weekend at Chinati, the art museum that he established in Marfa, Texas, I can understand why. To view the sundry installations by Dan Flavin, John Chamberlain or, most important, Judd himself, requires a two-mile walk around the complex of buildings once known as Fort D.A. Russell. The 340 acres of land extends to a barely visible horizon of low-slung mountains, an unbroken vista but for Judd’s massive concrete containers, standing sentinel. So much space is enervating. It defies the very concept of an agenda. When asked the date, a local Marfian answers, “Does it really matter?” In Marfa, it doesn’t seem to matter — which is a congenial condition for a nap and explains the beds that Judd kept in his studios.
Equally, ambition is tiring and Judd was nothing if not ambitious, accomplishing an enormous amount before dying of cancer in 1994 at age 64. Beyond the sheer, staggering beauty of his 100 milled aluminum boxes located in two restored artillery sheds, surfaces glimmering in the magical Marfa light, it is the magnitude of his ambition that is obvious. In our age of knickknack esthetics and historical amnesia, Judd’s commitment to creating an enduring art, removing a portion of it from the hubbub of commerce and securing the circumstances of its presentation for the foreseeable future is, well, impressive.
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