PRINT Summer 1994

Paula Cooper

DONALD JUDD WAS A FRIEND, neighbor, fellow parent, and artist with whom I worked and whom I greatly admired and respected. His work is the essence of his mind and character, but his persona was not so clearly definable: many misread his bluntness as arrogance, others believed his crystalline esthetic alone informed his every move. Not so.

Over twenty-five years of contact with Don, I saw many facets of his personality: generosity, crankiness, an old-fashioned kind of innocence, wryness, determination, and especially an energy that was vital and life-affirming. His curiosity was insatiable, whether the subject at hand was Native American history, the origins of language, or the food before us. Though we didn’t agree about everything, he offered solid thoughts about the indivisibility of life, the wholeness and oneness of the land, and the notion of stewardship—an obligation to care for what is important to us. It was that sense of responsibility that required him to help younger artists while also honoring his peers and elders. Behind his mania as a collector, his need to become a patriarch of values, was this idea of responsible stewardship.

He was also susceptible to humor. Most recently, before Don died, Peder Bonnier had an exhibition of Don’s work including sculpture and furniture. One of Don’s assistants faxed Peder to the effect, “Your exhibition of Mr. Judd’s is unauthorized. Sculpture should never be shown with furniture. This is not a request, but a demand that either the art or the furniture be removed immediately.” Peder shot back, “Dear Don, don’t worry. They’re all fake. Love, Peder.” Don faxed Peder directly, “Dear Peder, That’s good. Fake work in a fake gallery. Love, Don.” They had dinner together a couple of weeks later.

When I think of Don (and this may surprise some), it is with warmth and an appreciation for many good memories.