What Would Donald Judd Do? (2022)

What Would Donald Judd Do? (1)

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The artist turned the remote town of Marfa into a cultural pilgrimage site. Three decades after his death, the foundations charged with preserving his complicated legacy are debating how to move forward.

One of 100 aluminum works by Donald Judd from 1982-1986 stands in a former artillery shed in Marfa, Texas. The Chinati Foundation is debating how to cool down buildings where the sculptures heat up to 120 degrees.Credit...Judd Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Douglas Tuck/The Chinati Foundation

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By Hilarie M. Sheets

MARFA, Texas—Donald Judd’s sculptures are ticking. In the high desert 100 gleaming aluminum forms — each the exact same size — are aligned in rows with military precision inside two former artillery sheds, just as Judd had ordered. Pristine and silver, they reflect light pouring through giant window walls that Judd designed to replace aging garage doors. The installation, yielding views of the endless landscape, could make a believer of anyone who ever scoffed at Minimalist art.

But listen closely and you can hear the metal sculptures as they expand and contract. Some have inched out of alignment, heating up to 120 degrees — not quite hot enough to fry an egg — in buildings without climate control. Their custodians at the Chinati Foundation, which stewards the collection of works by Judd and a dozen major artists he invited to this remote town, must decide how best to mitigate the heat without compromising the holistic experience meticulously calibrated by Judd four decades ago. The foundation also has to replace the eroding barrel-vaulted metal additions Judd positioned atop the sheds to improve drainage. But he wasn’t an architect. The roofs still leak.

Tick tock. Drip drop.

(Video) Art Trip: Marfa | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios

Judd came to far West Texas in 1971 looking for space and conceived a singular vision integrating art, architecture and landscape. As bristly as the terrain, he wanted distance from the New York art world where he first made a name in the early 1960s as an art critic and then as a rigorously experimental sculptor exploring color and form and the space around his geometric works, fabricated from industrial materials. Too often he felt that museums mishandled the installation and transport of these pieces, sometimes returning them with shipping labels stuck carelessly to the surface of his plywood boxes, mistaking them for containers of art rather than the art itself.

“The installation of my work and of others’ is contemporary with its creation,” he declared in 1977. “The space surrounding my work is crucial to it.” He added, “Somewhere there has to be a place where the installation is well done and permanent.”

That would be Marfa, population 1,800 and a three-hour desert drive from the public airports in El Paso and Midland.

“He looked on a map for the least populated place still within America,” said his daughter, Rainer Judd, a filmmaker, artist, and president of the Judd Foundation. (She was named for the dancer Yvonne Rainer.)

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As children, she and her brother, Flavin, accompanied their father when he started buying up vacant buildings in Marfa. He renovated two airplane hangars and adjacent former Army offices as their family residence and ideal setting for his own art, furniture designs and 13,000-volume library. (Judd bought 22 buildings in and around Marfa as living and working spaces, now open by appointment through the Judd Foundation.)

With funding from Dia Art Foundation in 1978, Judd acquired 34 more buildings on 340 acres: Fort D.A. Russell, a decommissioned Army base outside of town, and three structures downtown, for displaying his own work and those of his friends Dan Flavin, the famed light artist (his son’s namesake), and John Chamberlain, whose assemblages of crushed auto parts implicated a throwaway culture. In 1983, Judd opened his first architecturally modified warehouse dedicated to 23 monumental sculptures by Chamberlain and worked simultaneously to install his own 100 aluminum sculptures in the artillery sheds, along with 15 concrete sculptures on the fort grounds.

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(Video) Donald Judd: Exhibition Tour | Gagosian Quarterly

When Dia pulled back on its substantial financial commitment, Judd threatened to sue for breach of contract and lawyers negotiated a settlement in which he gained possession of all the art, buildings and land. He never spoke again with Dan Flavin, who refused to sever ties with Dia. In 1986, Judd established the Chinati Foundation as a curatorial forum for permanent installations and temporary projects, a kind of anti-museum where the artist was paramount.

Judd expressed his deep antipathy for museums and for the commodification of art — “conquered as soon as it’s made,” as he wrote in 1987. “The public has no idea of art other than that it is something portable that can be bought.” In counterpoint, he invited artists including Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Richard Long, Roni Horn, David Rabinowitch, Ilya Kabakov and Ingolfur Arnarsson to place work at Chinati, where it would be preserved in perpetuity. Others, including Robert Irwin, Carl Andre, John Wesley, found a home there, too.

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Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, recalls visiting Marfa in the early 1990s as deputy director of the Guggenheim Museum, which had recently acquired the Panza Collection of Minimalist and Conceptual art, including works by Judd that the artist had renounced. Govan was tasked with the job of opening communication with the artist. “In a way, I was on his side, as a young person who felt that museums weren’t doing what they could do for artists,” Govan said, calling the experience life changing.

“Judd was a domineering person to some people,” he said, “but his principles make Marfa special — the reclaiming of America’s abandoned landscape of industrial buildings to create spaces honest and good for the art; the sense of space and light; the commitment to long-term installations to endure through cycles of taste where it’s out of favor.”

Judd died unexpectedly in 1994 at age 65, shortly after a diagnosis of lymphoma. He left behind family, loved ones and acolytes deeply committed to him and his vision, myriad unfinished projects, prolific writings on art and architecture, and one of the most important installations of American contemporary art. It has become a pilgrimage site for artists, architects, collectors, art professionals and cultural tourists from all over the world. Now the foundations charged with preserving his work are debating how best to move forward.

It’s a complicated legacy to interpret. Always looming is the question, “What would Donald Judd do?”—a bumper sticker once seen around town. “I was 23 and Flavin was 25 when our dad passed away,” said Rainer, who is 52. “I spent a good deal of time considering whether I should receive the challenge my Dad asked of me.”

His will dictated that his works be “preserved where they are installed” for study and appreciation. But Judd also left huge debts, which took years for his children to settle. A Christie’s sale of Judd’s artwork in 2006 raised $28 million for the endowment, which has a current value of $60 million.

Both foundations are carrying out long-range plans for preserving deteriorating buildings and posthumous completion of projects, with an estimated price tag of $40 million for Chinati and $30 million for the Judd Foundation. In April, Chinati completed its first phase, a $2.7 million restoration of the 23,000-square-foot Chamberlain Building — replacing the roof, upgrading the Judd-designed pivot windows and doors, restoring Judd’s garden planted with a grid of rosette-shaped sotols and his distinctive adobe wall enclosing a courtyard. The space is A.D.A.-accessible and open without appointment for the first time.

“The completion of the Chamberlain building is a demonstration that the foundation is capable of renovating one of Judd’s buildings in an exemplary fashion,” said Nicholas Serota, a longtime Chinati trustee and a former director of the Tate in London.

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(Video) “Not so much a line as a star” Donald Judd in The Low Countries (1966-71)

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Yet on the heels of this success, Chinati’s board chose not to renew the contract of its director, Jenny Moore, after nine years. Moore, who helped raise $5 million to complete Robert Irwin’s largest permanent artwork in 2016, spearheaded the foundation’s master plan and oversaw the Chamberlain restoration, stepped down this summer.

The decision to look for new leadership “played along a difficult conversation that really centered around keeping the mission vital,” said Annabelle Selldorf, a prominent architect and Chinati trustee.

Moore came to be perceived as a divisive figure. Critics voiced concerns that attendance numbers, metrics and branding were being prioritized over the care of the art. The board had backed Moore a year earlier by refusing to renew the contract of Chinati’s longtime associate director, Rob Weiner, but that action caused a huge public outcry. Weiner, who came to Marfa to work as Judd’s assistant, stayed on after his death to help Judd’s romantic partner, Marianne Stockebrand, Chinati’s first director, steer the institution from financial brink. He worked closely with many artists, including Flavin (whom Stockebrand convinced to finish his fluorescent light installations). Weiner’s dismissal roused a slew of artists affiliated with Chinati, who signed a group letter in The Big Bend Sentinel accusing its leadership of losing touch with Judd’s founding mission.

One critic was Christopher Wool, a Marfa resident and the only artist to have served on Chinati’s board, for seven years. Wool was one of several trustees to quit during this tumultuous period. “The board turned its back on deep institutional knowledge and instead insisted that Chinati be governed under a corporate model simply because that was their experience,” Wool said in an email. “The fact that it differed from formal museums was not a weakness but its most important strength.”

(Video) The Artist's Studio: Donald Judd 2K [trailer]

Jeff Jamieson, who assisted Judd and Irwin on installations, also voiced concerns to the board. “All the moves Don made were to set up that experience of coming to see his art in the best possible light,” he said, noting that changes in the shape of a path or the line of a roof could chip away and “degrade that experience.”

“Chinati is not a sexy museum with new things and galas,” he added. “You would do really quality work for the place if you just kept the roofs in good shape and took care of the work.”

Moore, who interned at Chinati early in her career, was the first director who did not know Judd personally. “There’s always a difficult transition period from the founder,” she said. “But I followed what I understood to be very clear priorities in this era” — namely, to create a plan to repair the buildings and to professionalize the organization and staff.

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In its early days, visitors would roll up to the gate at Chinati and someone would hand them a key. In Moore’s time, attendance grew from 11,300 in 2013 to almost 50,000 before the pandemic. “We can’t do that anymore,” said Moore, who sees the need to create more restrooms, greater accessibility and affordable housing on the Chinati grounds for staff priced out of gentrified Marfa. But all these things require physical changes.

“It’s a public institution,” she insisted. “You can’t just be wackadoodle because it’s a place established by an artist. It’s not fixed in amber.”

Finding the balance between mausoleum and living institution is the challenge at hand. “How do we make sure that the ethos and unique presence of Chinati is upheld,” Selldorf said, “while knowing that a sense of welcome, inclusion, equity that every museum in the world has to deal with, apply to us as well?”

When the artist Theaster Gates began transforming buildings on Chicago’s South Side into cultural spaces with his Rebuild Foundation, he informally called his project “Black Marfa” — influenced by Judd’s “inexhaustible ambition for what art could be,” Gates said. But the issues faced by the Chinati and Judd foundations have him thinking about just how much he wants people to be ruled by his ideas in perpetuity.

At the Judd Foundation library in Marfa, Gates noticed that the sun had bleached a line across a book that no one had ever moved.

“Is it the artist’s intent that the book will never move?” he asked. Or is it better if the book is well used, “you rebind it and you allow the book to be a living thing?” He added, “This is a conversation of preservation writ large.”

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In the meantime, Judd’s sculptures are sizzling in the artillery sheds — the next major restoration project in Chinati’s master plan. An open question is whether to apply film to Judd’s windows or replace them with glazed double glass to help cool the buildings, which could tint the view looking out. (And forget about adding air-conditioning — too intrusive.)

And then there’s the dilemma of fixing leaky roofs. Judd’s sketches of his barrel-vaulted additions noted that the ends should be made of glazed glass (the better to frame the view). Yet he completed the buildings with the ends closed and made of metal. Should Chinati replicate what’s been there since 1984, or achieve Judd’s expressed intention? What would Judd do?

Jamieson said: “If Don got something finished and said, ‘This is good,’ my idea is, Let’s keep it that way if we can.”

Serota, the Chinati trustee, who thinks the closed ends may have been Judd’s temporary solution, urged caution before moving ahead. “We feel very strongly that it’s important not to invent pastiche Judd,” he said. “If we build at all, it should be very clear what is new and what was Judd’s.”

Selldorf said of the rounds of board deliberations: “It is a bit subjective. The last word hasn’t been spoken.”

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(Video) Donald Judd

FAQs

How did Donald Judd make his money? ›

Judd's work was expensive to make and difficult to sell. He made most of his money writing until then. In the early 1970s, through the dealer Leo Castelli, he finally found consistent support from the Italian collector Giuseppe Panza, who bought 11 works in those years.

How do Judd's specific objects differ from painting and sculpture? ›

Judd called these mature works “specific objects” rather than sculptures or works of art, to indicate their distance from traditional ways of making sculptural art. These were “specific” because the artist carefully orchestrated their shape, scale, proportions, and materiality.

Why did Donald Judd choose Marfa? ›

Judd came to Marfa not just for the space but in search of authenticity. He was dissatisfied with the New York art world in which, he felt, tastemakers and curators divorced art from its power.

What kind of art did Donald Judd do? ›

Donald Judd

Who are minimalist artists? ›

Minimalism

What materials did Donald Judd use? ›

As diverse as his unique works in three dimensions, Judd's works in editions were made for the floor, the wall, and the table in a range of materials: stainless steel, galvanized iron, cold-rolled steel, anodized aluminum, acrylic sheet, and wood.

Why did the artists in the Dada movement rejected the entire notion of art quizlet? ›

Why did the artists in the Dada movement reject the entire notion of art? They were influenced by the Impressionists and Cubists questioning of representation.

What you see is what you see Stella? ›

Stella remarked that in his early paintings “What you see is what you see,” a statement that marked a watershed between then-waning Abstract Expressionism and emerging Minimalism and became the unofficial slogan of minimalist practice.

What is literalist art? ›

Literalist art is work that acknowledges or foregrounds its status as merely object, or its objecthood. With this polemical connotation "objecthood" has duplicitous meaning in that "object" can also be defined as, "A statement thrown in or introduced in opposition; an objection" (OED).

What are specific objects? ›

In Specific Objects (1965), Donald Judd introduces the idea of a new kind of art that is “neither painting nor sculpture.” The idea of a “specific object” suggests that Judd no longer produces art, per se, but actual items. The objects are depersonalized, with a concentration on pure form.

How did ww2 affect art? ›

The most obvious characteristic of American painting since 1944, the end of the Second World War can be considered as the trend toward abstraction, which causes the each artist to develop a highly personal and unique style of painting.

What does Judd see as the basic nature of art and what are they? ›

Judd explained of his enigmatic work, “Material, space and color are the main aspects of visual art. Everyone knows that there is material that can be picked up and sold, but no one sees space and color. Two of the main aspects of art are invisible; the basic nature of art is invisible.”

Why is Marfa so popular? ›

The town, originally set up as a water stop for the railroad, is now known throughout the state of Texas, the nation and perhaps the world for the mysterious Marfa lights and minimalist art. Celebrities go to this desert West Texas town to escape and ranchers begin the day at dawn. Anthony Bourdain dined in Marfa.

What happened to Marfa? ›

Today, Marfa is a tourist destination and a major center for minimalist art. Attractions include Building 98, the Chinati Foundation, artisan shops, historical architecture, a classic Texas town square, modern art installments, art galleries, and the Marfa lights.

Who created Marfa? ›

Prada Marfa is a permanent sculptural art installation by artists Elmgreen and Dragset, located along U.S. Route 90 in Jeff Davis County, Texas, United States, 1.4 miles (2.3 km) northwest of Valentine, and about 26 miles (42 km) northwest of Marfa (its namesake city).

What country is the most minimalist? ›

Japan is the established leader when it comes to minimalism. There, the philosophy is rooted in Zen Buddhism, which encourages followers not to become overly attached to material possessions and to focus on happiness and mindfulness.

Who is the most famous minimalist? ›

Frank Stella, Eva Hesse, Agnes Martin, Dan Flavin, Anne Truitt, and Donald Judd are among the most famous minimalist artists in the art form's history.

Who invented minimalism? ›

The word was first used in English in the early 20th century to describe a 1915 composition by the Russian painter Kasimir Malevich, Black Square.

What is the meaning of aesthetic in art? ›

Aesthetics is a discipline concerned with the perception, appreciation, and production of art. Aesthetic experiences, such as looking at paintings, listening to music or reading poems, are linked to the perception of external objects, but not to any apparent functional use the objects might have.

What artists poured diluted paint onto a canvas and allowed it to soak in? ›

Influenced by Mark Rothko and Helen Frankenthaler, New York-based artist Jules Olitski began making "stained" paintings in the early 1960s, infusing diluted paint into raw canvas and allowing it to soak deep into the core of the surface, where it could create tactile, painterly blooms, as can be seen in this work.

What is the subject matter of pop art? ›

Although it did not have a specific style or attitude, Pop art was defined as a diverse response to the postwar era's commodity-driven values, often using commonplace objects (such as comic strips, soup cans, road signs, and hamburgers) as subject matter or as part of the work.

How did ww1 shape Dadaism? ›

World War I and Dada

For the disillusioned artists of the Dada movement, the war merely confirmed the degradation of social structures that led to such violence: corrupt and nationalist politics, repressive social values, and unquestioning conformity of culture and thought.

Where did the term Dada come from and what does it mean? ›

Originally a colloquial French term for a hobby horse, Dada, as a word, is nonsense. As a movement, however, Dadaism proved to be one of the revolutionary art movements in the early twentieth century, born as a response to the modern age.

What was Dada art a reaction to? ›

Dada was an artistic and literary movement that began in Zürich, Switzerland. It arose as a reaction to World War I and the nationalism that many thought had led to the war.

Where is The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago? ›

Brooklyn Museum

What inspired Frank Stella? ›

His early works were inspired by the Abstract Expressionists he encountered in New York, Stella later commenting: 'I wouldn't have bothered becoming an artist if I didn't like the artists of that generation so much.

Which of these materials were typical for minimal art? ›

Relying on industrial technologies and rational processes, Minimalist artists challenged traditional notions of craftsmanship, using commercial materials such as fiberglass and aluminum, and often employing mathematical systems to determine the composition of their works.

What does fried hate about minimalist sculpture? ›

This "theatricality" in Minimalist sculpture, Fried believed, relegated the work of the literalists to the realm of "anti-art." Such installations, as they eventually became, failed to achieve purity because they failed to properly distinguish between the art and the object.

What are the characteristics of concept art? ›

Conceptual Art is mainly focused on “ideas and purposes” rather than the “works of art” (paintings, sculptures, and other valuable objects). It is characterised by the use of different media and supports, along with a variety of temporary everyday materials and “ready-made objects”.

Which art movement made the idea of specific objects An important part of the theories behind the artworks? ›

The Start of Minimalism and Conceptual Art

Donald Judd's "Specific Objects," published in 1965, attempted to establish the aesthetics of Minimalism.

Who is a famous war artist? ›

These included Wyndham Lewis, Paul Nash, Chistopher Richard Nevinson, John Singer Sargent, Sir Stanley Spencer and Sir William Orpen. At the end of the war these collections were combined at the Imperial War Museum.

How did music affect ww2? ›

Big Band Goes to War

Jazz music provided comfort for families at home and soldiers abroad. Many musicians were drafted into the military and took their music with them. Some of them led military jazz bands that traveled the world to boost the morale of troops.

Who started World War? ›

The assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand (June 28, 1914) was the main catalyst for the start of the Great War (World War I). After the assassination, the following series of events took place: • July 28 - Austria declared war on Serbia.

What are the foundations of conceptualism? ›

conceptualism Philosophical theory in which the universal is found in the particular, a position between nominalism and realism. It asserts that the mind is the individual that universalizes by experiencing particulars, finding common factors in them, and conceptualizing these common factors as universals.

Who was Donald Judd inspired by? ›

There's a really great 'eureka moment' anecdote hidden away in our newly updated and expanded Yayoi Kusama monograph. However, it doesn't involve the Japanese artist's own work. Instead, it concerns the output of her one-time boyfriend, Donald Judd.

Why is ephemeral art important? ›

The process of making art is fulfilling enough to be the focus at times. Creating ephemeral art teaches kids about the impermanence of life and nature, as the most beautiful things such as a winterscape or a sunset aren't permanent. More than an image seen with our eyes, ephemeral artwork is an actual moment in time.

What artists poured diluted paint onto a canvas and allowed it to soak in? ›

Influenced by Mark Rothko and Helen Frankenthaler, New York-based artist Jules Olitski began making "stained" paintings in the early 1960s, infusing diluted paint into raw canvas and allowing it to soak deep into the core of the surface, where it could create tactile, painterly blooms, as can be seen in this work.

What does Judd see as the basic nature of art and what are they? ›

Judd explained of his enigmatic work, “Material, space and color are the main aspects of visual art. Everyone knows that there is material that can be picked up and sold, but no one sees space and color. Two of the main aspects of art are invisible; the basic nature of art is invisible.”

Who was Donald Judd influenced by? ›

There's a really great 'eureka moment' anecdote hidden away in our newly updated and expanded Yayoi Kusama monograph. However, it doesn't involve the Japanese artist's own work. Instead, it concerns the output of her one-time boyfriend, Donald Judd.

Why is Donald Judd famous? ›

Born on June 3, 1928, in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, Donald Clarence Judd is one of the landmark figures of the twentieth century, known for his radical and influencing thinking and often criticized work in the fields of art, design, and architecture.

How do you paint like a Frankenthaler? ›

Helen Frankenthaler was an American artist who invented a technique called “soak-stain” in the 1950s. This technique involved using thinned-down paint to create abstract paintings. Instead of using thick, opaque oil paint, Frankenthaler would add paint thinner until the paint was the consistency of watercolor.

How do you stain raw canvas? ›

Acrylic Wash and Stain Painting on Raw Canvas - YouTube

How do you paint unprimed canvas? ›

Although acrylics and dry drawing media can work well directly on raw or unprimed canvas, we recommend a barrier for most applications. When painting with any acrylic paint, medium, gesso, or ground, we recommend applying 2 or more coats of Gloss Medium first to reduce support induced discoloration.

What is the meaning of aesthetic in art? ›

Aesthetics is a discipline concerned with the perception, appreciation, and production of art. Aesthetic experiences, such as looking at paintings, listening to music or reading poems, are linked to the perception of external objects, but not to any apparent functional use the objects might have.

What are specific objects? ›

In Specific Objects (1965), Donald Judd introduces the idea of a new kind of art that is “neither painting nor sculpture.” The idea of a “specific object” suggests that Judd no longer produces art, per se, but actual items. The objects are depersonalized, with a concentration on pure form.

How did ww2 affect art? ›

The most obvious characteristic of American painting since 1944, the end of the Second World War can be considered as the trend toward abstraction, which causes the each artist to develop a highly personal and unique style of painting.

What is the technique of sfumato? ›

The technique is a fine shading meant to produce a soft transition between colours and tones, in order to achieve a more believable image. It is most often used by making subtle gradations that do not include lines or borders, from areas of light to areas of dark.

Why is ephemeral art important? ›

The process of making art is fulfilling enough to be the focus at times. Creating ephemeral art teaches kids about the impermanence of life and nature, as the most beautiful things such as a winterscape or a sunset aren't permanent. More than an image seen with our eyes, ephemeral artwork is an actual moment in time.

What is the subject matter of pop art? ›

Although it did not have a specific style or attitude, Pop art was defined as a diverse response to the postwar era's commodity-driven values, often using commonplace objects (such as comic strips, soup cans, road signs, and hamburgers) as subject matter or as part of the work.

What is Kazimir Malevich style? ›

Kazimir Malevich

What are the foundations of conceptualism? ›

conceptualism Philosophical theory in which the universal is found in the particular, a position between nominalism and realism. It asserts that the mind is the individual that universalizes by experiencing particulars, finding common factors in them, and conceptualizing these common factors as universals.

Which pop artist took inspiration from comic books and commercial art? ›

American Pop art painter Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) worked in Cubism and Abstract art, which eventually influenced his Pop art, for which he is most famous. The New York based artist used comic books, featuring scenes of romance and war, along with cartoons, as his main inspiration for his Pop art.

Videos

1. COS × Donald Judd, Prints | 15
(COS)
2. The Chinati Foundation
(Houston Public Media)
3. The Case for Minimalism | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios
(The Art Assignment)
4. A Panel on Donald Judd's Writings | April 16, 2020
(Art in America)
5. Donald Judd _ The investigation of space _ MIA ZUYD 19/20
(Giuseppe Guglielmotti)
6. Case Study 17: Donald Judd
(Lets Learn About Art)

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