Donald Judd put the town of Marfa, Texas on the art world map. He founded this amazing museum, so that large conceptual art installations could be on permanent display. Originally this project was in conjunction with DIA but now it is supported by the independent Chinati Foundation. The museum is situated in the high desert of Western Texas with views of the Chinati mountain range. Art can be seen both in large re-purposed military buildings and outside on the expansive grounds.
Access to the interior galleries is limited to pre-arranged tours but Judd’s iconic work “Untitled, 15 works in concrete” from 1980-1984 can be visited without reservations.
The 15 arrangements of concrete rectangular solids consist of a total of 60 forms all fabricated on site. All have of these elements have the same exterior measurements of 2.5 meters high by 2.5 meters deep by 5 meters long. The slabs of concrete are 25 centimeters thick. The grouping of forms are situated in a straight line and 60 meters apart over a length of 1 kilometer. Each arrangement has between 3 and 6 of the concrete sculptural elements. Judd’s placement of the rectangular open blocks is also mathematically specific relying on a series of ratios to best differentiate the 15 installations and the shadows created by the natural light.
I went to visit the site twice. Once in the bright sun of mid morning and again in the late afternoon. The pictures above were taken during my afternoon visit. The angles of the shadows, both within the concrete forms and on the landscape varies dramatically. By creating a set of numerical rules that allowed for a uniformity of the elements then exploring 15 permutations for this these building blocks in a dramatic setting Judd has provided the viewer an amazing experience to feel a physical connection to the art.
For the past month I have been traveling throughout the USA and one of the most interesting destinations has been Marfa, Texas. This small West Texas town is a haven for Minimal and Conceptual Art. The gallery Exhibitions 2d has a lot of mathematically art work on display. Two artists represented by the gallery – Gloria Graham and John Robert Craft – were of particular interest.
Gloria Graham – “NaCl H2O Salt Water” – 1994 graphite, kaolin, canvas on two wood panels Picture courtesy of the gallery
Graham’s geometric paintings are based on the patterns found in the atomic structures of natural elements. “NaCl H2O Salt Water” features two crystal-like forms, both regular hexagons. The hexagon on the left is divided into three congruent rhumbi. The hexagon on the right is divided into six equilateral triangles. The addition of the three extra line segments to divide the rhumbi into triangles changes the hexagon dramatically. The symmetry goes from order 3 rotational symmetry to order 6. The perception of the possible 3-D form goes from a cube to a faceted diamond shape with 6 facets on top. Graham’s painting process for this work involves a layer of kaolin (a clay-like mineral) applied to canvas stretched over wood. The lines are drawn into this base. Through the drying process tiny cracks in the surface have formed. This gives the work a complex physicality that alludes to the natural environmental inspiration for the painting.
John Robert Craft Cast iron Picture courtesy of the gallery
Craft’s cast iron sculptures are related to his life as a Texas rancher. They are solid and heavy, and have a rustic patina. Their rough physicality is juxtaposed to their intricate geometric forms. This work is made up of 60 basic elements stacked into a 4 by 5 by 3 rectangular solid. Each of the elements is a type of double cruciform with a pyramid set on each of the six ends. This forms negative spaces with 16-sided regular polygon shaped windows. Craft’s work presents complex 3-D repetitive tiling-like formations, while retaining the physical realities of the artist’s ranch experience.