Texas Trip Notes: Marfa, the Art Town in the Desert

“[T]he main purpose of the place in Marfa is the serious and permanent installation of art.”  — from Donald Judd Writings, edited by Flavin Judd and Caitlin Murray

15 Untitled Works in Concrete by Donald Judd

After leaving Big Bend National Park, we headed north to Marfa and Fort Davis for a couple of special activities I had booked.  In Marfa, we had tickets for an art tour at the Chinati Foundation.  I had long wanted to go to Marfa after reading about Donald Judd’s contemporary art installations there.

Donald Judd’s vision and philosophy embraced the theme of art in context.  He believed that artwork, the architecture that houses it, and the land/setting should work in harmony.   He worked mostly in large scale.

“The purpose of the foundation is to preserve my work and that of others and to preserve this work in spaces I consider appropriate for it. . . . The space surrounding my work is crucial to it: as much thought has gone into the installation as into a piece itself. . . . Somewhere there has to be a place where the installation is well done and permanent.” — from Donald Judd Writings, edited by Flavin Judd and Caitlin Murray

“My work and that of my contemporaries that I acquired was not made to be property.  It’s simply art.  I want the work I have to remain that way.  It is not on the market, not for sale . . .”  — from Donald Judd Writings, edited by Flavin Judd and Caitlin Murray

15 Untitled Works in Concrete by Donald Judd

Judd’s 15 Untitled Works in Concrete is a collection of boxes set outdoors in a long line.  Another of his installations, 100 Boxes in Milled Aluminum, is housed in two old artillery buildings.  I loved all the variations in tension with the overall unity of the boxes, and how the light and reflections enhanced their beauty.

Artillery buildings housing Judd’s 100 boxes

We saw some of Judd’s smaller works housed in a special collections exhibit.  These were Horizontal Wall Works housed in a former barracks.

The Chinati Foundation now holds the art of Judd and 12 other artists.  We did not stay for the full tour, as we had another appointment to get to.  But here are some photos of some of the other works:

Ilya Nabokov’s School No. 6
Richard Long’s Sea Lava Lines
John Chamberlain’s scrap metal sculptures

I loved this sojourn to Marfa.  I like the whole idea of a town as an art destination.  My husband, however, was clear that he did not consider most of what he saw as art.  A circle of stones?!?  Some crushed cars?!?  Some aluminum boxes that a company manufactured to spec?!?

I, on the other hand, respect Judd’s vision and philosophy of making art as permanent (as much as possible) installations.  “The art and architecture of the past that we know is that which remains.  The best is that which remains where it was painted, placed, or built.  Most of the art of the past that could be moved was taken by conquerors.  Almost all recent art is conquered as soon as it is made, since it’s first shown for sale and once sold is exhibited as foreign in alien museums.  The  public has no idea of art other than that it is something portable that can be bought.”  — from Donald Judd Writings, edited by Flavin Judd and Caitlin Murray

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”  — Aristotle

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”  — Picasso


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