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PRINT February 2000

PERFECT UNLIKENESS: DONALD JUDD AS CRITIC

AS EDITOR OF ARTFORUM THROUGH MUCH OF THE ’60S, PHILIP LEIDER PUBLISHED VIRTUALLY EVERY SIGNIFICANT CRITICAL VOICE OF THE PERIOD. HERE, ON THE OCCASION OF THE SIXTH ANNIVERSARY OF DONALD JUDD’S DEATH, LEIDER REEXAMINES THE ARTIST’S CRITICAL ESSAYS AND REVIEWS, AND FINDS IN THEM AS MUCH BREADTH AND DEPTH AS IN THE WRITINGS OF ANY OTHER CRITIC OF THE PERIOD.

IN ARPIL 1966, the Jewish Museum in New York presented what turned out to be the major show of that year. It was called “Primary Structures,” which was yet another term for “minimalism.” Donald Judd, whose work was in the show, was appalled by the title, and was allowed to publish his disclaimer in the catalogue. Here are a few quotations from his remarks:

I object to several popular ideas. I don’t think anyone’s work is reductive. The most the term can mean is that new work doesn’t have what the old work had. . . . New work is just as complex and developed as old work. Its color and structure and its quality aren’t more simple than before; the work isn’t narrow or somehow meaningful only as form. . . . “Minimal” and “ABC” are recent reductions of “reductive.”

A year earlier, in his fundamental essay “Specific Objects,” Judd also tried to explain that what he called “the new work” was in no

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