This is not sentimentalizing about the “dignity of labor.” It is saying that a culture is hardly a culture at all when it does not provide for for the most sophisticated training in the fundamental arts of life: farming, cooking, dining, dressing, furnishing, and love-making. Where these arts are not cultivated with devotion and skill, time to spare and money to spend are useless. The shops are empty of all but trash, thrown together by slaves working joylessly for cash with one eye on the clock. Thus there are virtually no jobs to be had for those who delight in expert workmanship in producing the necessities of everyday life. The jet aircraft and scientific instruments are marvelous, but houses, cars, fabrics, bathtubs, carpeting, jewelry, suits, chinaware, beds, and lighting fixtures are simply phenomenal failures of human imagination. (Incidentally, if you want truly elegant glassware for the kitchen - jars, funnels, decanters, bottles - buy from a dealer in laboratory equipment).
“This is a rule of almost mathematical exactitude: colorless kitchen = tasteless food”
Working iteratively was important to Judd, as it allowed him to continuously interrogate spatial relations. “He liked seeing what things would look like. Once he started sketching variations, there were many he wanted to see,” Flavin says. “Usually financing or other factors would limit the variation, not his imagination.” The first furniture pieces were made from 1×12-inch planks from a local lumberyard; not owning a saw, Judd had the yard cut the wood to his specifications and hammered them together himself. Judd conceived Chair 84 with 10 different base configurations, which he made first out of pine and refined further in hardwood. Later, he worked with area carpenters in both New York and Marfa—a practice that is maintained by the Judd Foundation—to produce his designs.
The appeal of building one’s own Judd as a nonexpert makes sense. For one thing, the designs are fairly straightforward. Constructing a daybed with a few pieces of plywood is a much more accessible project than, say, building your own Biedermeier — and the official Judd Furniture website lists the necessary dimensions online. Having a piece of home-cooked Judd furniture in your apartment also signals to visitors both that your taste transcends West Elm and that you possess a level of technical skill beyond that required to assemble an Ikea Billy bookcase. It’s the rare project that simultaneously lets you flex a knowledge of art history and (some) capacity for manual labor.
“The art of a chair is not its resemblance to art, but is partly its reasonableness, usefulness and scale as a chair. These are proportion, which is visible reasonableness. The art in art is partly the assertion of someone’s interest regardless of other considerations. A work of art exists as itself; a chair exists as a chair itself. And the idea of a chair isn’t a chair.”
It was 1982 in the remote desert town of Marfa, Texas, and Rainer and Flavin Judd, daughter and son of artist Donald Judd, had just moved into rooms of their own. Don, as they call him, made each of them a desk, but as Flavin explains, “Once you have a desk, you need a chair—a place to sit and do your homework.” In no time, their father sketched one (actually, there were 10 variations) and took the plans to a carpenter to have seats hewn in pine from a lumberyard.
The design couldn’t have been simpler, made entirely from flat pine boards. But in that cubic volume beneath the seat, the artist experimented: In one version he placed a shelf, in another a slanting board; another was solid on the front but recessed on the sides.
Built furniture by necessity. In the 70s @ Spring Street (his five story live work space in NYC) and for his place in Marfa Texas.
American artist (assoc. w minimalism though he didn't like that term; started as painter then moved on to freestanding objects built from humble mat'ls)
Designed straightforward furniture by necessity
Kafka clearly wants us to think about our relationship with the opportunity, with the option of giving up; or to the giving up which turning back, or blocking our own way, can sometimes entail. And about the way the idea of giving up figures in our lives, as a perpetual lure and an insistent fear. The giving up that involves leaving ourselves out of what we had wanted, or thought we had wanted. The giving up that is linked to a sense of impossibility, or of possibilities running out, of coming to the end of something. Of needing to exempt oneself. Excluding oneself – perhaps because one lacks the wherewithal or the know-how or the courage or the luck – from a project one had taken to be one’s own. ‘A courageous person,’ Jonathan Lear has suggested, ‘has a proper orientation towards what is shameful and what is fearful.’ We tend to think of giving up, in the ordinary way, as a lack of courage, as an improper or embarrassing orientation towards what is shameful and fearful. That is to say we tend to value, and even idealise, the idea of seeing things through, of finishing things rather than abandoning them. Giving up has to be justified in a way that completion does not; giving up doesn’t usually make us proud of ourselves; it is a falling short of our preferred selves; unless, of course, it is the sign of an ultimate and defining realism, of what we call ‘knowing our limitations’. Giving up, in other words, is usually thought of as a failure rather than a way of succeeding at something else. It is worth wondering to whom we believe we have to justify ourselves when we are giving up, or when we are determinedly not giving up.