View current page
...more recent posts
[ ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
In its unhallowed brazenness Waters's Visit Marfa calls for a reconsideration of Judd's enterprise and, by extension, Minimalism as a whole. Its multiple assaults could be addressed, even rebuked one by one. Still, the allusion to Judd's bed should not be overlooked, particularly in light of the recent "Minimalist-art tour" of Manhattan offered by the Guggenheim's curators. The list of attractions, recounted in the New York Times, is in no way exhaustive. Happy tourists hopped from a restaurant designed by Richard Meier in TriBeCa to the Flavinesque window display of the Apple Store in SoHo, but they could just as well have glanced at the even more Flavinesque window of the Helmut Lang boutique a block away, and rather than visiting the Jil Sander store uptown, they might have patronized Calvin Klein on Madison Avenue, replete with excellent examples of Judd's furniture. The question is, in short: Has Minimalism merely turned decor? Have Minimalist sculptors become, as Barnett Newman would have said, just new "Bauhaus screwdriver designers"? The answer is yes, but only in part, and I am not certain that Judd was the foremost agent of this devolution, even if he did design furniture. Flavin's exhibitionist staging of his wedding in the rotunda of the Guggenheim during his own exhibition there is much more to the point. Indeed, as Lucy Lippard reminds us in her 1968 essay "10 Structurists in 20 Paragraphs," Flavin himself spoke of Minimalism as a longing for a "common sense of keenly realized decoration."
Let us say, first, that this scenario is inevitable. Meyer Schapiro long ago remarked on fashion's co-optation of modern art in the immediate aftermath of the 1913 Armory Show. Since then, the market forces at play--and not simply those of the culture industry--have grown exponentially. Second, being able to design good furniture does not mean that your art becomes mere design. Judd was adamant on this point, establishing a clear distinction between the two practices even if he admitted that both his furniture and his sculptures, particularly when in plywood, had a similar look. (On this score he was perfectly right: Although Mondrian's art was long thought of as design, no one in his or her right mind would return to this misconception on account of the similarity between his late canvases and the latticed tables and shelves he built in his studio.) Third, it is hardly a tragedy that current design appropriates certain features of Minimalism, even if this appropriation is a complete misprision .
I do not mind at all that architects look at Minimal art if this leads them to dispense with their ridiculous froufrous. Fourth, Minimal art is especially hard to install, which is what led Judd to architecture in the first place. For all its ponderous piety, his Marfa fiefdom does offer us a precise document of what he meant by marrying architectural and sculptural space, and it remains stunning. Judd was perfectly correct in thinking that the best way to ensure that his works would forever be seen in a proper setting was to provide it himself.