20120515

postcards from chinati foundation, marfa

I bought a few postcards at Chinati Foundation (distant view, above) before our tour in order to have keepsake images of the experience, as picture-taking was highly discouraged unless done discreetly. The reason is not necessary because of flash-photography's ill effects on artworks - it's doubtful such harm could be caused to Judd's aluminum boxes or Flavin's fluorescent light installations - but because it's distracting. I am on board with that. I get it. How many times do we spend documenting an experience without truly being part of it? The experience is lost in trying to take a good picture. (That said, my husband managed to sneak in a few quick shots with his iPhone. I don't think anyone noticed; I certainly didn't. He was very discreet, so no rules were broken. If the photos turned out ok, I'll post them soon.)
To walk amongst Judd's monolithic boxes or stand looking down rows of them - each, approximately 2000 pounds of aluminum, precisely constructed and assembled - is awe inspiring. The huge buildings (converted artillery sheds), the shimmering aluminum, the vast desert view through glass walls, the quiet - all come together in this majestic and powerful space. One cannot imagine the Judd's boxes in any other environment. Inarguably, Judd was at once great designer, artist, architect, visionary - and his site specific installation at Chinati is the culmination of these and, in my opinion, his greatest achievement.
More from the Foundation's website:
At the center of the Chinati Foundation's permanent collection are 100 untitled works in mill aluminum by Donald Judd installed in two former artillery sheds (above image). The size and scale of the buildings determined the nature of the installation, and Judd adapted the buildings specifically for this purpose. He replaced derelict garage doors with long walls of continuous squared and quartered windows which flood the spaces with light. Judd also added a vaulted roof in galvanized iron on top of the original flat roof, thus doubling the buildings' height. The semi-circular ends of the roof vaults were to be made of glass.
Each of the 100 works has the same outer dimensions (41 x 51 x 72 inches), although the interior is unique in every piece. The Lippincott Company of Connecticut fabricated the works, which were installed over a four-year period from 1982 through 1986.

15 works in concrete, 1980-1984, Donald Judd 
We intended to return to the main grounds after the tour's end and view Judd's concrete works at close range. However, we had a time constraint so we declined. I was fine with that, as we were advised by Mike Bianco, our docent, to tread cautiously because "critters" tend to lurk (slink?) in the tall grasses. Critters...rattlesnakes, you know. Next time, I'm walking this field, rattlesnakes be damned (so I tell myself).

Dan Flavin's site-specific light installations in six buildings (former army barracks) were also part of our Chinati tour. As I noted to Mike, an intense disconnection exists between the exterior of the buildings and landscape, and the spaces inside. Walking in through each wooden door, one enters another realm of reality. White walls and pure colored, glowing light. Retinal fatigue occurs by the end of the experience and it is glorious.
Flavin's installation (a portion, above) as described on Chinati's website:
Two parallel tilted corridors are constructed at the connecting arms of each U-shaped building. These corridors contain light barriers that are placed either in the center or at the end of each corridor. The barriers consist of eight-foot-long fluorescent light fixtures, occupying the entire height and width of the corridor. The tubes are installed with space between them, allowing a view through the barrier. Each fixture holds two differently colored bulbs shining in opposite directions. The barriers in the six buildings utilize four colors: pink, green, yellow, and blue. The first two buildings use pink and green, the next two yellow and blue, and the last two buildings bring all four colors together. Two windows at the end of each long arm of the U allow daylight to enter the building and permit a view into the vast landscape.

A visit to see John Chamberlain's works concluded our tour. Chamberlain's sculptures are housed at a downtown building as part of the Chinati Foundation. I will write about his work in a separate post.

Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas. Go see it.



6 comments:

Tanya said...

Funny that a little town like Marfa would spring up in the middle of Texas. What a mysterious little treat.

Stephanie Hoff Clayton said...

Tanya,
It is a strange little place, a real gem!
I think what Judd has done for Marfa (basically put it on the map, so to speak) is great. Before Judd, the tiny west Texas town had first been a railroad water stop and later had an army base and fort. Now Marfa (population only 2121) is a traveler's destination and modern art mecca.

KONABARBIE said...

I think I would stay out of the tall grass too if there were rattlesnakes. I am enjoying your Marfa photos and posts. I didn't know anything about it until now.

Stephanie Hoff Clayton said...

Konabarbie,
Thanks. I could write and talk about Marfa for ages! There are so many layers to the place.
I'm determined to return to Marfa, and when we do, we'll go look at Judd's concrete works up close. I'll have to get over my rattlesnake phobia!

Diane McGregor said...

Stephanie, I've always wanted to go to Marfa! Thanks for these views.

Stephanie Hoff Clayton said...

Diane,
It is a magical place. I also found it contemplative and inspiring. Even soul-cleansing. I hope you get to visit Marfa one day.