Hyde Park Art Center’s board members made the contemporary art pilgrimage to Marfa, TX to experience the Donald Judd complex (studio, house, and library), see the sprawling Chinati 1 Foundation galleries and see all the other art goodies the town of 2,000 has to offer.
The art highlight was unanimously the Robert Irwin installation remodeling the u-shaped architecture of the former hospital of Fort D.A. Russell into one continuous installation of light exploration. Depending on which side you enter the building, the installation goes from dark to light or light to dark and is made dynamic from the movement of the bright Texas sun that pierces through over ninety glass windows/doors evenly spaced along the exterior of the building and produces shadows on a black or white scrim placed down the middle of the corridors – one on each side. The way the architecture imprints the interior space with bright rectangles or squares feels cinematic (in super slow-motion) and ensures that the work is never experienced the same from one minute to the next. The culmination is the middle gallery – a series of 5 doorways cut out of the center of the scrim material tightly stretched from wall to wall, ceiling to floor, in colors progressing from black to grey to white. It creates a transitional space in space and perception, allowing your eyes and body to adjust to the next space. Time has never been made so visible and tangible for me before. Being immersed in the experience of light active in the space simultaneously slows everything down - from my body and mind, to the trees outside swaying through the windows.
This work (untitled?) was the last new work planned by Judd before death in 1994 to be added to the Chinati collection. Since the 1990s the foundation had been fundraising for the project, which was finally realized by Irwin in 2016. Pictures do not do this installation justice, but hopefully, they will entice others to make the trip.
Incidentally, Fort D.A. Russell is the decommissioned army base purchased by Chinati to turn into galleries for site-specific installations by twelve of Judd’s favorite artists and colleagues – all icons in contemporary art: Carl Andre, Ingolfur Arnarsson, John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin, Roni Horn, Robert Irwin, Ilya Kabakov, Richard Long, Claes Oldenburg & Coosje Van Bruggen, David Rabinowitch, and John Wesley.
Our art adventure continued in seeing shows at Ballroom Marfa and Marfa Contemporary. Vilis Inde of Inde/Jacobs gallery hosted the group and connected us with artist, Glenn Hanson, who talked about his recent geometric panels made with Venetian glass beads on hide presented alongside paintings by Matt Magee. We also visited Pure Joy gallery and snuck a peek at Meghan Geherty’s work in her studio across the way.
The group had plenty of non-Judd / non-art related activities too, from a delicious steak dinner at Capri with a campfire duet by Janis and Tom McCormick, to lamb kabobs, falafel, and beer from the Food Shark truck across the street from an amazing rock shop, which “is pretty good if you like rocks,” according to one of our posse. An extra special moment was dining on pulled pork tacos by Chef Matt Wilson under the stars on the patio of Kruger Gallery Marfa – thanks to Mikelle Kruger, after viewing the new warrior sculptures by Chicago’s own Rodrigo Lara Zendejas at the gallery. After much walking (a cumulative 6 miles on most days), a civilized cocktail party hosted by Trinita Logue and Sarah __ at their airbnb followed by a sit-down dinner of beautiful branzino fish at Hotel Saint Georges celebrated the end of our trip. Some went on to star gaze at the McDonald Observatory, maybe even see the Marfa lights, but thanks to Jill Riddell who could point out the constellations most nights in a drive through the moon-lit landscape dotted by nibbling jackrabbits, I got my fill of stars, guaranteed.