Donald Clarence Judd (1928-1994) was born in Excelsior Springs Missouri in 1928. From 1946-1947 Judd served in the Army as an engineer, after which he would enroll in the College of William & Mary. He would go on to transfer to Columbia University from which he would graduate with a B.A. in philosophy. Following his graduation he began working towards a masters degree in art history while attending classes at the Art Students League of New York.
He was first publicly recognized as an art critic when he was writing reviews for Arts magazine from 1959-1965. Additionally during this period, Judd would transition away from the abstract paintings he had been making and began producing the hollow, rectilinear objects for which he became well known. In 1964 Judd authored the essay “Specific Objects” in which he sought to explore a new kind of artwork that was untethered from the traditional frameworks of painting and sculpture. He traded these frameworks for an investigation into “real space,” three-dimensions, using commercial materials and emphasizing unified shapes.
At the same time Judd began employing the use of professional sheet-metal fabricators to create his work out of galvanized iron, aluminum, stainless-steel, brass, and copper. This marked a moment in which the artist’s studio became removed from any hands-on art making. This shift would become foundationally important for the next generation of conceptual artists. In the late 1960s, Judd began to exhibit many of his iconic forms. “Stacks” which are hung at equal intervals from floor to ceiling, “progressions” whose measurements follow simple numerical sequences, bull-nosed shapes the protruded from the walls, and box-like forms that were installed directly into the floor would become the foundation for his sculptural vocabulary for the remainder of his career.
Judd would go on to split his time between New York City and Marfa, Texas. The latter of which he continually expanded with the help of the Dia Art Foundation until it became a multi-building museum called The Chinati Foundation. Judd treated space as a material and would author essays advocating the value of critical thought and the importance of artists to society until his death in 1994.