Judd is Dead! Long Live Judd!

Judd is Dead! Long Live Judd!

[Udo Glau has a doctorate in architecture and taught semiotics at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich. He has generously contributed his thoughts on art and Marfa.]

Please forgive me for my inelegant English, I generally lecture in French or German. I hope that the ideas of this old scoundrel are provocative, if not enlightening.

I am an old reprobate; I cheered when the Baader-Meinhoff gang gave the children of Berlin arms and encouraged them to fight the police. My aesthetic is based firmly on the idea that Art is life is dialogue is communication. To paraphrase Sontag, when a work no longer inspires dialogue it is dead.

Similarly, Duchamp said that a work of art has a lifespan like any organism. It is rare for this life span to exceed 20 years of relevancy. After that, it is no longer Art, it is art history alone. I do not deny the art historians their collections and their fussy notes… I just have little interest in it. There is so much life green and yellow and gold in the World; why should we look at white paper and black marks? Why should we marvel over the playthings of millionaires?

I toured Judd’s installation at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas under one of my many pseudonyms (Karl Schlossen) because I did not want any special, servile treatment due to my academic background. I found it impressive, but emotionally sterile. To me it was imitative of the consumer culture of fifty years ago. The Coca Cola bottle and the Volkswagen Beetle are the Platonic ideals of mass production and regularity (beautiful objects, particularly the milled aluminum engine of the Beetle). Why would an artist of Judd’s talent emulate this sameness when it is the bland, continual fact of Existence for the post-industrial man? Heavy-handed; where is the humor and the sharpness?

Also, a cafe that served light refreshments would be a welcome addition. Perhaps a bruschetta or or a slice of plum cake and espresso.

I do not deny Mr. Judd his work. It is clear from the market that collectors adore it. My question is this, though: is this a living work of art that enervates the people who contact it on a daily basis? I can’t help but say no.

The grounds of the Chinati Foundation are ill-kempt; the grass is long and untrimmed. The paint and trim on the buildings is peeling (forgive my German eyes for their fussiness). To me this reflects the attitude of an unhappy child whose father has died and who strives to keep the home in the state when Papa was there. Papa Judd has been gone nearly 25 years, no? It is time for housekeeping. It is time for life and art. Clean your house and kill your father!

If his work was taken seriously, then a living web of disciplined order would metaphysically extend from the grounds outward, like the leylines of a Medieval cathedral. I see chaos, clutter and deterioration surrounding the grounds. The center of Order in town is the rail tracks and the regular blasts from the horn of the train passing. That is life. That is art. One cannot forget the World turns and goods move from the mountains to the prairie to the seaside.

Also, it is an empty gesture to multi-culturalism to include Spanish translations to everything if there are NO WORKS BY PEOPLE OF COLOUR. If they care so much for the Hispanophones of the world, where are the Mexican, Argentine and Spanish artists? I imagine the typical visitor is like me: an educated, white bourgoise Western European. We are so flattered to see our sterile, Prostestant ideas replicated endlessly while we pay lip service to out multi-cultural largesse.

Judd’s work overshadows the other art. Flavin and Oldburg’s work is dwarfed by the massive collection of aluminum boxes. Many of the works (particularly those of foam rubber) have been poorly preserved. Is the deterioration meant to be part of the aesthetic? it is the same problem with Impressionistic canvases– the medium of oil can lose its color and lightness in as little as five years.

It is a foolish attitude that Mr. Judd can do no wrong and that his personal collection of 25 years ago is the “End-all Be-all”. The master is fine, but his students need correction.

I like Marfa. But it is more alive elsewhere. The Food Shark mediterranean auto diner to me is more interesting. It evokes the open road, and the glamour of classical American car culture.

The buildings that have migrated form and function (funeral parlor > beer garden, residential home > feed store, home > boutique etc.) are most entertaining. Also, Judd’s buildings themselves are more durable than his work– people live and work in them and engage in a non-interpretive dialogue with their surroundings.

I cannot tell you how many times the works of milled aluminum were described thus: “They respond to the light and the environment. The sun rises and they change color. The sun sets and they change.” The NKVD would be proud of how consistently the party line is given. Anytime a work of this magnitude has such a fixed interpretation, you know that it has died as a work of Art.

The best thing the Chianti foundation could do is to bring in Asterix Druids to read runes and re-consecrate the work. Mistletoe, lightning and the sacred, phallic oak tree. A board-member or bureaucratic functionary should be sacrificed and killed to demonstrate their passion (out with the old, in with the new). A Sig rune should be emblazoned on each box (in non-permanent marker of course) and a Norwegian Black Metal band should scream and yell over the silence of the boxes. Perhaps an iris or lilly will sprout and this unhealthy secular death-worship will cease.

Thank you for your time, whether or not you agree with me. Perhaps this fussy academic is a bit harsh and irreverant in his old age (my stomach was upset from local food while I took notes covering my trip; I didn’t pack sufficient digestive biscuits).

If these ideas interest you, I urge you to further read my Structuralist interpretation of Lalande’s “Pragmatisme, Humanisme and Verite” in regard to Rothko’s use of Colour.

[Please comment on Dr. Glau’s work. All opinions contained herein are the opinions of the author and do not reflect the opinions of West Texas Weekly, its staff or its publisher.]

37 thoughts on “Judd is Dead! Long Live Judd!

  1. Proud Marfan

    If you don’t like the art here in Marfa, go back to Germany! We are very proud of Mr. Judd and his accomplishments! You are an embarassment to art and obviously are a fake and a phoney! You do not have an art degree or teach art, so you do not have the credentials to criticize Judd’s work!

    I am disappointed that West Texas Weekly published this piece of shit! It is nothing buy one person’s bad opinion based on nothing!

  2. Andrew Suber

    Dr. Glau has offered his opinion. It do not agree with it.

    However, as long as he is accountable for his words I will continue to provide a forum for him. Anyone is free to address Dr. Glau’s opinion in the comments section.

    Please do not use explicit profanity in the comments section. This is the first warning.

  3. Belle_of_the_Balle

    U r too old to get what is going on here in Marfa. Get a clue and stop criticizing if u dont know what u r talking about. PEACE IM OUT

  4. Jay Valles

    The people of Marfa should thank you for visiting and spending your money there. Even more, you should also be thanked for your words. The worst thing a critic can do is not criticize. All you are trying to do is your part, at least that is according to your aesthetic, “Art is life is dialogue is communication”. I think it’s fair to say you were inspired to the point of dialogue.

  5. SK8fan

    Hey marfa is a christian town that believes in GOD AND JESUS! don’t even joke about using satanism and witchcraft… THOU SHALT NOT SUFFER A WITCH TO LIVE. Exodus 22:18

  6. Vince Williams

    What, big bad Texans can’t take a little criticism of anything in Texas?

    Udo Glau may have eyes of German fussiness, but he thinks and writes like a Frenchman.

    I applaud his energetic and stimulating critique, though I must call foul on his insincere apology for his “inelegant English”– he writes very well in English, much better than most Americans.

    He has certainly succeeded in being provocative here.

    Of course, he’s spouting utter nonsense when he says, “It is rare for this life span [of a work of art] to exceed 20 years of relevancy.”

    And he has the nerve to summon that old trickster Marcel Duchamp to support this fatuous little stinkbomb.

    How very French.

    And what a breath of fresh air.

    Not for him the servile deference of a fanboy, or worse, the insipid pablum of Chamber of Commerce boosterism, Udo Glau observes Judd’s works with a critical eye, and delivers an inventive and very entertaining review of them.

    I say this essay is a funny and clever work of art in itself, and it makes me want to see Judd’s oeuvre myself.


  7. Hondo Lane

    This raises the interesting issue of the Judd and Chinati legacy. The fact that it exists is curious enough, the fact that it remains relevant is less curious. So what now, oh-so-cool Marfalites? To uninvite scrutiny of any ilk will only serve to marginalize all that the art and artist represent about Far West Texas. Go ahead and separate yourselves from the rest of the known universe, because you can, but don’t get mad when someone looks behind the curtain and sees the Wizard pulling the levers of a tempest in a teakettle.

    With that being said, you are the center of all that I find appealing about the audacity of humans and art in Texas. I can’t wait to be back in the high desert with folks who appreciate just being free people in a beautiful place. I’ll wait until @Proud Marfan moves back to Grapevine and returns to his old job at the skateboard shop, though.

  8. U. Echo

    Smells like a put-on to me. Let me count the ways. Nobody by that name has taught at that university in the last 5 years. (I did find an Udo Glauflügel who seems to be “the manager of [a] branch of the Holy Harbor Workers’ Samaritan Federation”). That university does not seem to offer a course on semiotics. Karl Schlossen does not appear to have ever written anything that’s been published. And schlossen means “closed” in German. I think someone’s pulling our shenkels. So who’s the troll? And what’s the motive? Inquiring minds….

  9. Jorge A. Martinez

    Quick notes after having read the article.

    I hadn’t noticed the signs in Spanish when I recently visited the Chinati foundation… and really they wouldn’t have been very important to me. But the idea of having Hispanic artists to bring multiculturalism is kind of silly. One of the things that really interested me about the whole place was the weirdness of YOUR “educated, white bourgoise Western European” culture. Not to say that having a Hispanic artist’s work would be bad.

    Also, I liked the fact that the property looked unkempt. It offers a contrast to a lot of the work.

    I will say that Ingolfur Arnarsson’s work was lame and pointless. But that is just my opinion.

    annnddddd food/coffee would be AWESOME. but i mean, who doesn’t like food? 🙂

  10. Andrew Suber

    Thank you for your research. I do not speak German, so verifying his credentials was especially difficult.

    I will contact the author regarding this… as long as he is subject to your public scrutiny, I believe it is proper to keep the post up.

  11. Umberto Umberto

    I think that you yourself (U. Echo) are Udo Glau and that you are perversely discrediting your own work to create some mystique…

    You don’t think that I’ve noticed you’ve adopted U. Echo (Umberto Eco) as a pen name? U. Eco teaches semiotics and has a degree in architecture from Florence U. (I think).

    Will the real Udo Glau please stand up? Is Umberto Eco in the room? Umberto? Umberto?

  12. Humbert Humbert

    First of all, Andrew (if there really is an “Andrew”), please, give us some credit here. If “he” wrote this piece, “his” English ain’t the problem (and therefore “your” lack of German is no excuse).

    And U.U., I plead not guilty as charged. I have my peccadillos, but impersonating semioticians ‘snot among them.

  13. Andrew Suber

    To H. H.: I just meant that I can’t pore over German academic websites in order to smoke out a phony because I can’t speak, write or read German.

    I can’t verify anyone’s identity or academic background but my own. I’m well-known enough locally so that I don’t think that is a real problem.

    Dr. Glau has not returned my emails yet.

    Is Udo Glauflugel of the Holy Harbor Workers’ Samaritan Federation available for comment?

  14. The Voice of Sanity

    Udo Glau > U. Echo > Umberto Eco > Umberto Umberto > Humbert Humbert > Vladimir Nabokov > Monty Cantsin > Monte Cazazza > Montgomery Clift > Adrina Drina > Udo Glauflugel > Udo Glau

    World without end, amen?

    Now if I can only figure out the JFK assassination and the Knights Templar…

  15. Steve

    New Marfa’s fixation on Judd is a classic case of self indulgence; all the while hoisted on Judd’s stale petard. Critical comment is healthy. Grow up!

  16. Victor Cabooseman

    If there is no real Professor Udo Glau he/she is a cleaver writer. Informed too: Baader-Meinhoff, Sontag, Asterik Druids. Marfa’s a long way from Europe’s touch. The continental garlic breathe gut-check. Art does die.

  17. Carel Rowe Blumenschein

    “Take the Whole Family to Marfa”, created by John (Hairspray) Waters is a cover of Art Forum Magazine of an issue devoted to Judd.

    It shows the sculptor’s worst nightmare: Minimalism as tourism and mass entertainment. Just what Glau suggests.

    The poster describes Marfa as The “Jonestown of Minimalism” (sans even Kool Aid, as Glau points out). The cartoon cackles at the cultish reverence Judd’s work inspires in the long-dead “Art World”. Yet we continue, buying sunglasses and reflecting on gleaming cubes, in cultish reverence. And well we should.
    They are better than television. And more informative.

    Ah, that the same could be said of the Ayn Foundation’s bank-vault exhibit as public-friendly. Not to mention easily visible: Warhol’s “The Last Supper” hangs there eternally in a black box theatre with limited “viewings” that makes it “The Lost Supper”. No food there, either. Not even a can of soup.
    The Box furniture outside “The Food Shark” is designed and donated by the Judd Foundation. Art for Free.You can sit on it. Whatever you’re wearing.

    While on subject of food, could the dyspeptic Dr. Glau kindly provide us with a list of local restaurants he visited ?

    Ah, that there were midnight seasonal pagan rituals by red-robed priests in candle-lit processions around The Cubes. After reverently polishing the flickering Cubes, drinks could be set on them in a satanic celebration of the minimalist future. The reflections could be seen all the way cross town at The Cowboy Church compound. Perhaps inciting a cultural war involving laser beams. It might liven things up.

    What most people don’t realize is that The Boxes are actually responsible for The Mystery Lights. Their eternal glowing is a result of Judd/Flavin’s secret work, with the astrophysics dept. at Macdonald Observatory, for over a decade.

    Finally,Dr. Glau knows that when speaking of Minimalism, one must use a minimalist discourse. For instance: “I’ve seen them, they shine, so what.”

  18. michael r. humberto

    All your base are belong to us.

    Ms. Carel done got it right.

    Everything has its own manitou—every plant, every stone, even machines.

    Only autistic subjects—who lack the degree of inferential capacity normally associated with aspects of theory of mind—come close to functioning as “meme machines.”

  19. James

    The renown art critic Barbara Rose once stated “To view a moment historically is to kill it.”

    This observation succintly lays to rest any true understanding of art as expounded by Mr. Glau.

  20. Carel Rowe

    Dear Dr. Humberto,

    I know your work well, Especially your unrivaled “Pataphysics Man” and “Manitou Two”.

    Are you implying that The Cubes themselves, are intrinsically autistic ?
    There are special programs for this disorder. Usually at state level.
    Would Cubes qualify ?

    The Cubes have no skills, no means of receiving radio waves, no feedback information.
    They are abandoned, and, as you implied, probably, autistic victims and social outcasts.

    They function like Egyptian slaves in the desert. They don’t get a day off. Corporate gains from their labor alone rivals gains from child-labor-factories in third and fourth worlds put together. Slaves to tourism, slaves to art. What other life have they known?

    They are simply mirroring the wrong memes.
    They should mirror only themselves.
    Miinimalisticay speaking.

    Whales, Haitians, Cubes. You have to decide.

  21. Andrew Suber

    In my mind, that quote supports Dr. Glau’s understanding.

    He is critiquing the curators and conservators for emphasizing the historical nature of Judd’s work.

  22. michael r. humberto

    Dear Ms. C,
    Cubes do not mean but be.
    Melt is a relative term. Everything is melting.
    Nightsticks, water cannons, tear gas, padlocks,
    Molotov cocktails and rocks.
    West Texans so like butt they made the Big Bendover National Park for tourists to admire.
    Well, regionally it may be the butt, but locally it’s the cube. As we know.
    My dear I can only subtract from what you have already said.
    There is nothing in Marfa but forms and formalism of cube.
    In the 19th century they prospected for cube; today it is traded freely.
    This is why it is so often said that the cube makes Marfa, Marfa does not make the cube.
    Let us look reality in the face not the butt: If it weren’t for the cube Marfa would be a town of proctologists.

    ever yr humble medical practitioner

    dr. humberto

  23. michael r. humberto

    I have been misquoted. The correct sentence reads:

    This is why it is so often said that cube makes Marfa, Marfa does not make cube.

  24. Carel Rowe

    The pitiful truth is most local “Texans” believe Dr. Glau is “damnned right..whatever the hell he means.”

    Who needs incredibly exquisite minimalist art when you got mud.
    “Our own damned mud….that we kin kick with our boots and curse at and make bad music cause we’ll lissen to each other and we’re mad and drunk and just wanna party.”

    They wouldn’t go to “Chinati” without their Pitt Bulls.

    They yammer around, bitchin’ and whining that their dust is
    “more innerestinin'” than
    The Cubes.
    The Cubes are only reflecting them to themselves.

    Only Judd could take Marfa mudd
    and make a place….
    By planting a banana republic of art where there was nothing.

    Of course god made Texas
    (for Texans and Presidents and sunlight)

    But only
    Judd could make a Cube.

    And only Cubes could
    Make Marfa.

    And only Marfa could
    make Marfans.

  25. Kalevi Kull

    I believe that this is a humorous essay by an old colleague of mine– I recognize this pen name from a tutor he once had whom he detested. I am Kalevi Kull and teach at the University of Tartu and I know this gentleman from a graduate course at Lyon. He has a funny sense of humor and likes to tease people.

    If you are interested in semiotics, I have one of the best web pages on the Internet.

  26. michael r. humberto

    Ms. Carel,
    With all due respect, I believe your third sentence should read: “They wouldn’t drink “Chianti” without their Brad Pitt Bulls.” Of course, some prefer Prosecco.
    Is there information out there about what D. Judd liked to drink? More to the point, did he lean against a cube when he was imbibing?

    dr. hummer

  27. Carel Rowe

    Dear Karevi Kull,
    As en esteemed semiotician, how would you interpret a reading The Meaning of The Cubes ?
    Can you deconstruct The Cubes for us, without using Derrida ? Fouccault?
    (Levi-Strauss, ok) (Baudrillard, of course).

  28. michael r. humberto

    Miz Carel,

    As regards your more recent posting, please do keep in mind:

    Foucault is the fulcrum
    Derrida we don’t needa
    Levi-Strauss is a louse
    While Beaudrillard’s full of lard

    Don’t hesitate to come to me for all your patient needs. I provide Marfa’s finest medical cures, with bitch-slaps at no extra charge!

    Dr. Hummer

  29. Mike Fauxcault

    Glad to see you corrected the misspelling of Kalevi (by Kalevi–which still confuses me–Carel’s repeat of the mistake seems natural). Sorry to see you didn’t post my comment pointing out the misspelling. But you own the printing press….

  30. Andrew Suber

    Dr. Kull submitted his comment by e-mail and I edited it. I made a typographic mistake re-typing his name to clarify his identity. It is editorial policy to correct typographic errors without pointing them out.