Art Inspection

Time-Sensitive with Rainer Judd

A poetics of time.

With our focus on all things Time thanks to the launch of Standard Timeone person who immediately sprang to mind was Rainer Judd, the daughter of pioneering artist Donald Judd and co-president of Judd Foundation. Devoted to managing her father’s spaces and furthering his ideas, Rainer is someone with a unique relationship to time. Her childhood homes in New York and Marfa, Texas, have been fastidiously preserved and made available to the public as crucial contexts in which to view and understand Donald Judd’s multifaceted body of work, which, in addition to three-dimensional works and drawings, encompasses writing, furniture, design, and architecture. In light of her relationship to the past and present, we asked Rainer to reflect on the concept of Timelessness, and as expected, she had much to share.  

   Certain specifics of human existence are unchanging, regardless of technology, war, peace, and social systems. Our scale, for one. Our basic needs, for another. 
     About seven years ago, I finally got over the notion of being born in the wrong time. I looked around, engaged with some particularly inspired creative people, and came to see that this time needs me and my particular old-fashioned ways. Owning up to being in your time is akin to being compelled by your own life: you are the only one who can be you; the experiences you had as a child relate to the rest of your life. 
     I’m interested in the connection between an individual’s personal experience and their work in a chosen field. The notion of a design or artwork, story or place, having a timelessness means to me that a person or a group of people used their own experience to such specificity that they transcended the details of the current society and created something timeless and what some call “universal.” 
"My work has the appearance it has, wrongly called 'objective' and 'impersonal,' because my first and largest interest is in my relation to the natural world, all of it, all the way out. This interest includes my existence, a keen interest, the existence of everything, and the space and time that is created by the existing things. Art emulates this creation or definition by also creating, on a small scale, space and time." — Donald Judd, "Art and Architecture," Donald Judd Writings, p. 347
    I think that my father, Don, saw art as one way to leave a lasting influence. While he was here making his art, he intended to leave his art with as much context of space and architecture, warmth and objects, as possible. There are spaces he made where you are looking at art in his living spaces. The idea was that art was meant to be looked at and felt often. Don’s art perhaps transcends his time for some people because he took so long to become knowledgeable about the history of art: what had been explored before, what had not. He made his art out of a passionate connection with nature and its inherent beauty. It is no coincidence that many of his early drawings were of landscapes. However, year by year, he explored more and more materials from the industrial world. How could he make something beautiful and interesting to himself? If you start with yourself, make for yourself, this is an enduring source that you can rely on. 
     A computer cannot design a good building. It has, at this point anyway, no experience of the myriad senses of scale, light, and proportion. Don studied harmony and unity, proportion and symmetry, color and light, time and space, and put this research through his own personal experience of standing in a room or standing on a hill. He used knowledge to complement and extend his natural intelligence and perception. This is all you can do. 
     We are all microsystems of the natural world with basic needs of air, water, the natural cycles of rest and action, contemplation and intuition. Unlike the natural world as a whole, we have a brief life here in this paradise. With our senses, our feelings, and our intelligence, we witness and participate in birth, death, joy, and grief. Our relationship to time is affected by our mortality, our busy brain (sometimes called “the Monkey Mind” by yogis), our senses, and many primal needs. We differ from the ecosystem, because we die. This limited life span gives us an impatience, an angst, a joy, a grief, and with so many things to take in one could easily choose to panic. Making peace with mortality is a damn good idea. So far, it is here to stay. 
     Whether or not the Earth’s ecosystems will survive man’s effect on them and live on is not entirely certain. Our inclinations to stability, comfort, community, and independence vary. As does our potential for understanding our existence in our present world, our place in human civilization’s and Earth’s time. Our awareness of human evolution is pretty narrow, but spiritual leaders, artists, scientists, designers, and many others have a role in our evolution in a piecemeal but cumulative way. 
     The balance between your own process and that of your community is important. When an individual, or group of people, is able to pull a valuable idea from the past and apply it to their own specific circumstances in the present, it is an equation for invention. Such insight can bring about a revelation for all. 
Judd Foundation maintains 16 spaces in New York and Texas, including studios and ranches, that total over 126,000 square feet. The Foundation promotes a wider understanding of Judd’s legacy by providing access to these spaces and through new programs and publications.

This fall, the Foundation will publish Donald Judd Writings, which compiles previously published essays, alongside hundreds of unpublished notes and letters from its archives, commenting on art, activism, politics, architecture, design, and land use, among other topics. 

If you’re staying at The Standard, East Village or High Line, tours of 101 Spring Street, Donald Judd’s living and work space in New York, can be arranged by visiting


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