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The Smithsonian Institution Donald Judd’s Credibility Gap Author(s): Robert Slifkin Source: American Art, Vol. 25,

The Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution Donald Judd’s Credibility Gap Author(s): Robert Slifkin Source: American Art, Vol. 25, No.

Donald Judd’s Credibility Gap Author(s): Robert Slifkin Source: American Art, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Summer 2011), pp. 56-75 Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

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Donald Judd, Untitled , 1963. Oil on wood with Plexiglas, 19 ½ x 48 ½

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1963. Oil on wood with Plexiglas, 19 ½ x 48 ½ x 48 ½ in. Collection Judd Foundation © Judd Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York.

Photo, Craig Rember, Judd Foundation Archive


Summer 2011

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Donald Judd’s Credibility Gap Robert Slifkin For Donald Judd, in both his artistic production and

Donald Judd’s Credibility Gap

Robert Slifkin

For Donald Judd, in both his artistic production and criticism, there was no criterion more important than cred- ibility. Judd outlined his artistic project, what could be called his aesthetics of credibility, in an essay entitled “Specific Objects.” In this oft-cited text, published in 1965, Judd argued that by forgoing two-dimensional media such as painting and by eschewing recognizable imagery, the artist was able to create works of art free from any preexisting taints of meaning so that they might appear as real and immediate as any other object in the world. Such objects would thus avoid what he called “the problem of illusion- ism” and could consequently transcend what he saw as the discredited tradition of European culture founded on universal humanist—in Judd’s terms, “anthropo- morphic”—principles. In Judd’s words:

“Because the nature of three-dimensions isn’t set, given beforehand, something credible can be made.” 1 Drawing on his long-standing interest in British empiricist philosophy and its precepts regarding the sensory basis of knowledge, Judd argued for an aesthetic ideal in which a work of art that renounced illusionism and familiar imagery would initially produce perceptual confusion and uncertainty that would ultimately be resolved—and made credible—by a viewer’s scrupulous

57 American Art

(and perhaps skeptical) investigation of

it through the senses. 2 Judd applied this

aesthetics of credibility in his own art through three principal means: nonhierar- chical (i.e., geometric and mathematically based) compositions; unconventional materials, which were frequently industri- ally fabricated; and abandonment of any aesthetic borders such as pedestals for his floor pieces or frames for his wall-mounted works. For instance, in an untitled work from 1963 (frontispiece) constructed of painted plywood and Plexiglas, a square form measuring approximately four feet on a side is “divided diagonally to a depth half its height” (as Marianne Stockebrand has described it) and placed on the gallery floor, thus asserting its physical presence as

an object within the viewer’s literal space. 3 By removing the familiar signifiers of aesthetic experience, Judd sought to forge

a new mode of perception that was more

credible, more real even, because it was unmediated by preconceived notions of what a work of art should be. Such credibility was something that Judd not only brought to his own art but also recognized as a valuable asset in the art of others. Throughout his early criticism, which appeared primarily in the journals Arts Magazine and Art International during the early 1960s, he reserved this adjective for the art he most

Volume 25, Number 2 © 2011 Smithsonian Institution

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admired. He called Barnett Newman’s

“openness and freedom

Robert Rauschenberg’s sculptures “cred- ible and strong”; and, perhaps most ardently, Lee Bontecou’s wall reliefs “credible and awesome.” (Slightly lower on Judd’s scale of aesthetic merit is the term “convincing,” which he used more frequently than “credible” but usually regarding work he deemed of lesser quality. One might say that within Judd’s critical lexicon, “credible” and “convinc- ing” were analogous to more traditional terms of aesthetic judgment like “beauti- ful” and “admirable.”) Judd also used the term negatively, to condemn the legacy of European modernism, which for him suggested the outdated tradition of easel painting, with its accompanying princi- ples of composition. He noted that artists working in that mode need to “present some credible alternative,” asserting in the essay “Specific Objects” that “[Piet] Mondrian’s fixed platonic order is no longer credible.” 4 For Judd, credibility was not simply a function of material presence or the denial of figurative associations but fundamentally a historically grounded factor, one in which different moments called for different strategies of credibility. Deliberately impersonal and unconven- tional, Judd’s art sought to foil humanistic notions of interpretation, expression, and composition, which, according to him, had largely defined artistic practice since the Renaissance yet had become obsolete, irrelevant, and unbelievable in the post– World War II cultural landscape. In the place of this anthropomorphic tradition, he endorsed an art of unprecedented immediacy, which encouraged scrupu- lous empirical judgment over historical precedent as a model of moral, political, and philosophical existence. 5 This central aspect of Judd’s art resonated with the anxiety caused by the Vietnam War in the 1960s, when the “credibility gap” between the government’s official presen- tation of the war and its reception within the media led to a growing suspicion


58 Summer 2011

and distrust among many citizens of the United States. Judd was trained as a painter and print- maker, and many of his earliest sculptures preserve a certain degree of traditional artistry, both in terms of manufacture (by the artist’s own hand) and materials (such as cadmium red oil paint, composition board, and wood). Yet just as the artist attempted to diminish signs of authorial intervention within these early works through simple, geometric compositions and factureless, uniform coats of paint and to increase their material presence by eliminating bases, Judd incorporated nontraditional objects—such as sections of pipes, a baking pan (embedded flush into a painted board of wood; fig. 1), and, in the case of the untitled work from 1963, a rectangular plane of colored Plexiglas—to enhance his works’ nonfigurative and nonallusive visual quality or, in the terms of his aesthetic theory, their credibility. Because these materials offered a surface that required no additional alteration (as he put it, the “color is embedded in the material”), they were exemplary agents in his project to make an art of material spec- ificity and compositional lucidity. As Judd became more financially successful and was able to realize his aesthetic goals more fully, he drew more on nontraditional and especially industrial materials such as aluminum and stainless steel and, to a lesser extent, polished brass and plywood as a means to downplay the handcrafted aspects of his work. In 1964 he would further forgo the authorial hand by having small industrial firms fabricate the work according to his designs. 6 If Judd’s art established its credibility in its material presence, made evident in his use of nontraditional art materials and rejection of recognizable imagery and conventional modes of display, many of the artist’s earliest critics found the works perhaps too credible in their apparent allusions to everyday objects. Writing in 1964, one reviewer described Judd’s art as “resembl[ing] storage units

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1 Donald Judd, Relief . 1961. Oil on composition board mounted on wood, with inset

1 Donald Judd, Relief. 1961. Oil on composition board mounted on wood, with inset tinned steel baking pan, 48 1/8 x 36 1/8 x 4 in. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Barbara Rose © Judd Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photo © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, New York

of an unidentifiable kind,” while another declared that the artist’s 1968 retrospec- tive at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, looked like a “science- fiction warehouse” filled with “gleaming hardware.” In tandem with these insinu- ations that Judd’s artworks were little more than things, critics and dealers (but notably not the artist) gave many of his early works colloquial monikers as a way to identify them, such as “record

59 American Art

cabinet,” “Kleenex box,” “bleachers,” or, in the case of the untitled work from 1963, “step.” Intentionally exhibited as art objects occupying the same physical space as other objects and people in the world, Judd’s works, with their nontraditional and occasionally sleek and unembellished “science-fiction” materials, seemed to allude to automobile bodies or domestic appliances rather than to most sculpture of their time. 7

Specific Objects in a Spectacular Society

These nonart and occasionally com- mercial connotations of Judd’s avowedly impersonal and specific objects suggest not only how his artistic project corresponded with the contemporaneous practices of artists associated with pop but, more significantly, how both strands of artistic production confronted the already bur- geoning commodity culture of the 1960s. 8 The nearly simultaneous arrival of both pop and minimal sensibilities, especially in the New York art world in the early 1960s, reflects more than a coexistent engage- ment with the influence of mass culture, whether it was with industrial materials or advertising. Rather, both styles addressed what was seen as the increasingly spec- tacular, which is to say image-ridden and visually manipulative, nature of U.S. culture in the 1960s, a state of affairs trenchantly diagnosed by Daniel Boorstin in The Image, or What Happened to the American Dream (1962). Although prob- ably best known for the coinage of the term “pseudo event” to describe an event whose primary purpose is to be seen and reported on, Boorstin’s book more gener- ally addressed the correspondence between what the author saw as an unprecedented increase in visual information in postwar society and the rise of an illusory and even deceptive component of everyday life—not only in such an expected realm as advertising but equally in politics, jour- nalism, and interpersonal relationships.

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2 James Rosenquist, F-111, 1964– 65. Oil on canvas and aluminum, twenty-three sections, 10 x 86 ft. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alex L. Hillman and Lillie P. Bliss Bequest (both by exchange) © James Rosenquist / Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photo © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, New York

“Now, in the height of our power,” wrote

Boorstin, investing his language through- out with a tone of impending danger, “we are threatened by a new and a peculiarly


unreality. The threat of nothingness is the danger of replacing American dreams by American illusions.” In the final pages the author presents the frightening prospect of a world in which the real can no longer be distinguished from the false. “More and more accustomed to testing reality by

the image, we will find it hard to retrain ourselves so we may once again test the

image by

our illusions before we can even realize that we have been sleepwalking.” 9 This image world, in which the boundaries between the public and private spheres of experience (as well as the commercial and the political) melt away under the pressure of rampant commodification and techno- logical mediation, is powerfully evoked in an exemplary pop work like James Rosenquist’s F-111 from 1964–65 (fig. 2). Employing the scale of billboards and the pictorial vocabulary of print advertising, Rosenquist’s painting, especially as it was originally installed wrapping around three walls in the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York, presents an unsettling and

overwhelming vision of metamorphosis in which imagery of commodities evidently taken from advertisements uncannily fuses with an immense fighter plane. In such unsettling passages as that in which a heap of Day-Glo spaghetti transforms into what appears to be a swatch of fabric (possibly bedsheets, as sleek and monochromic as the actual aluminum panels from which

It is the menace of

We must discover

the pasta materializes) and then explo- sively tumbles out of a mushroom cloud both doubled and sheltered by a multi- colored umbrella (which is itself echoed in the reflective missilelike dome of a hair dryer atop a small girl’s head), Rosenquist offers a surreal and particularly martial dreamscape in which modern technol- ogy and new industrial materials such as aluminum and chrome constitute both the deadliest of weapons and the most benign, if nonetheless alluring, commodities. If Rosenquist’s work addresses the blurred relation between people and things in an overly commodified and techno- logically mediated world, Judd sought to produce objects that could transcend this confusion, albeit in the autonomous sphere of aesthetics. In this regard, the horizontal plane of purple Plexiglas in Judd’s work of 1963 (see frontispiece) provides an illusionistic (and technologically redolent) passage similar to the morphing forms Rosenquist painted on reflective aluminum panels. The sensuous, reflective surface of Judd’s plastic stands out from the rest of the object’s matte cadmium red exterior, declaring itself as the key passage in the work and presenting the beholder with a visual conundrum: Is the vague triangular form seen on the surface of the Plexiglas the reflection of the lower triangular form, or is it a view through the translucent material into an interior space, exposing part of the square base that supports the uppermost triangular form? As the conventional account of Judd’s art (and minimalism more generally) has demon- strated, the answer can only be arrived at by approaching the object and checking

only be arrived at by approaching the object and checking 60 Summer 2011 This content downloaded

60 Summer 2011

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3 Donald Judd, Untitled, 1965. Galvanized steel and red enamel, 14 11/16 x 76 9/16

3 Donald Judd, Untitled, 1965. Galvanized steel and red enamel, 14 11/16 x 76 9/16 x 25 5/8 in. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Harold D. Field Memorial Acquisition © Judd Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York

Acquisition © Judd Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York one’s visual sensations with one’s changing

one’s visual sensations with one’s changing position in relation to it. 10 Such perceptual skepticism is rewarded with enlighten- ment, revealing that what one sees is in fact a reflection, a very convincing natural illusion (as opposed to artificial illusions like representational imagery) and a quite mesmerizing one—like the ripples seen on the surface of a tree-lined lake—able to hold the viewer’s interest for an unexpect- edly long time. It could be argued that if pop art diagnosed the symptomatic excess and confusion of a culture of spectacle, minimal art like Judd’s sought a possible cure. Critical of traditional painting and sculpture that purported to be representa- tions of things in the world, Judd instead sought to create “specific objects” that aspired to be nonreferential things in themselves. In a world of rampant com- modification and media overload, Judd’s art would furnish a space of perceptual credibility. 11 Because these works resisted traditional modes of aesthetic appraisal, they created

61 American Art

anxiety in many viewers who did not know how to approach them. Situated within the actual space of the beholder rather than the idealized space of the pedestal or frame, the works offered themselves not as aesthetic objects for optical delectation but as real physical presences that impinged on the viewers’ spatial awareness. 12 Many of Judd’s critics found his work “aggressively physical,” “disconcerting,” “threatening,” and even “belligerent.” Judd himself acknowledged that the industrial materials he valued for their “obdurate identity” also contained “aggressive” qualities. Critics often couched their descriptions of his works in explicitly martial metaphors. For instance, one writer noted how “the massive, four-foot cubes” of “shining” steel that Judd showed at his Whitney retrospective in 1968 “are marshalled into strictest alignment.” Another reviewer of the same show provided a colloquial desig- nation for one of Judd’s works by referring to the protuberances of a four-pronged work as “knuckles” (fig. 3). 13

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Minatory Minimalism

The recurring associations between Judd’s aesthetic project of credibility and the perceived aggressiveness of his work follow a pattern in the broader reception of minimal art in which the works were characterized using terms of violence and force. 14 Reviewing the landmark Primary Structures exhibition of 1966 at the Jewish Museum in New York, one of

exhibition of 1966 at the Jewish Museum in New York, one of 62 Summer 2011 the
exhibition of 1966 at the Jewish Museum in New York, one of 62 Summer 2011 the

62 Summer 2011

the first shows to present a representative body of minimalist art to the public, the critic for Time magazine described certain sculptures (presumably those of Ronald Bladen) as “tilt[ing] like huge destroyer smokestacks” and noted the “aggressive and sometimes playful” nature of the art in the show. One of Judd’s contempo- raries, Walter De Maria, exhibited a work called Bed of Spikes in 1969 made of 153 upright 11-inch obelisk-shaped spikes (fig. 4) that were described (again in the pages of Time) as “honed to the sharpness of a Viet Cong punji stick.” Judd himself invoked such metaphors when comment- ing on the work of Lee Bontecou in a 1965 review, commending its “minatory power” and pointing out that it has to be viewed “with puzzlement and wariness, as would be any strange object, and at most seen with terror, as would be a beached mine or a well hidden in the grass.” In his “Art and Objecthood” of 1967, undoubtedly the most famous essay on minimalism, Michael Fried stated that “there is a war going on between theatre [his term for the kind of literal art prac- ticed by artists like Judd] and modernist painting.” Throughout the polemical essay, Fried invokes a passionately combative tone, describing the “survival” of modern painting as a “conflict” in which objectlike works like Judd’s must be “defeated.” 15 In another foundational text of minimalism, Annette Michelson’s catalogue essay for a 1969 retrospective of the work of Robert Morris, an artist perhaps only second to Judd in embody- ing the minimal movement in both his passionate writings and wide-ranging artistic practice, the author suggests how the anxieties of war infused the criti- cal reception of minimalism. Writing

war infused the criti- cal reception of minimalism. Writing This content downloaded from on Thu,

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4 Installation view of Walter De Maria, Bed of Spikes, Dwan Gallery, 1968–69. Stainless steel, 2 ½ x 78 ½ x 41 ½ in. with obelisk-shaped spikes, 10 ½ x 9/10 x 9/10 in. © Walter De Maria. Photo, Dwan Gallery Records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

5 Robert Morris, Untitled (Ring with Light), 1965–66. Painted wood, fiberglass and fluorescent light, two units, overall: 24 x 14 x 97 in. Dallas Museum of Art, General Acquisitions Fund and a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts © Robert Morris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo, Sonnabend Gallery

6 “U.S. and Hanoi Delegates Debate Table Design,” New York Times, December 14, 1968, 2

7 Robert Morris, Crisis #2, 1962. Mixed media on newspaper, 18 1/8 x 24 5/8 in., RM-330. Collection of the artist © Robert Morris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo, Sonnabend Gallery

about an untitled work from 1965–66 constructed of a gray plywood circle with two bands of fluorescent light emanating from opposite sides (fig. 5), Michelson

describes how Morris’s artwork energizes the space around it, arguing that such a

spatially engaged artistic project exhibits

a certain relevance to everyday life. She

demonstrates this point by citing the “prolonged debates over the design of the table and seating arrangements which preceded the opening of the current

‘peace talks’ in Paris, as reported in the New York Times during December 1968 and January of this year.” 16 A diagram of proposed tables for the negotiations between U.S., South Vietnamese, and North Vietnamese delegates, published in the Times on December 14, 1968 (though not included in Michelson’s essay), sug- gests how these spatial concerns found

a strikingly similar materialization in

Morris’s work and the minimal aesthetic more generally (fig. 6). The underlying

political and specifically war-related content of Morris’s work during this period is most evident in Crisis #2 (fig. 7), one of thirteen such images. Here Morris used characteristically minimalist tropes of formal reduction and negation

minimalist tropes of formal reduction and negation 63 American Art of ostensible content literally to obliter-

63 American Art

of ostensible content literally to obliter- ate the subject of military violence. Morris roughly occluded the information given by the headline of the New York Post from Monday, October 22, 1962, announcing the alarming state of affairs brought on by the Cuban missile crisis, covering the text in the same gray paint that would become the artist’s signature color for his pieces a few years later. 17 While it is understandable that the growing prevalence of war (and the threat of war) would permeate the critical discourse of various cultural spheres with references of these kinds, many artists, including Morris and Judd, were at certain moments in their careers actively involved in the antiwar movement. A more direct, if complex, correspondence between the martial metaphors associ- ated with minimalism and the artists’ biographies can therefore be posited. Judd’s undeniable awareness of the issues surrounding both the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons arguably allowed the artist to channel such anxieties in his work, however unintentionally. Recently art historian David Raskin has argued that Judd instilled his own vaguely anar- chist (and consequently antiwar) politics into his artistic production through the visual sensitivity that his works engender, encouraging viewers to approach the world in a heightened state of skepticism and self-reliance. 18 In the summer of 1968, while an artist in residence at the Aspen Center for Contemporary Art, Judd published a full-page announcement in the Aspen Times calling for an end to the war in Vietnam as well as a renewed commitment to civil rights in the United States. That fall he participated in a benefit exhibition at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York to raise money for the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. The artist’s most explicit antiwar statement, written in 1991 in response to the U.S. invasion of Kuwait and revealing his distrust of military power, declared, “Almost no one

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8 Donald Judd, Untitled, 100 works in mill aluminum , 1982–86 (detail). Permanent collection, the

8 Donald Judd, Untitled, 100 works in mill aluminum, 1982–86 (detail). Permanent collection, the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas © Judd Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photo, Florian Holzherr

9 Artillery sheds interior. Permanent collection, the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas ©Judd Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photo, Florian Holzherr

in the United States has said that for fifty years the country has been a military state and that the ‘Cold War’ was, as it is again, a situation devised to maintain that military state.” 19 Yet despite the artist’s ardent antiwar stance, it could be argued that war marked both Judd’s first experience with construction and design when, as a member of the Army Corps of Engineers between 1946 and 1947, he supervised the erection of prefabricated buildings in Korea, and his culminating artistic project, the establishment of the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas. Using land that had earlier been occupied by Fort A. D. Russell, a U.S. Army base with artillery sheds, an aircraft hanger, and barracks, Judd redeveloped the base into a tightly controlled, ideal setting for the display of art (fig. 8). 20 Although Judd claimed that the site’s previous military existence could hardly be deemed an architectural (let alone an ethical) virtue, he nevertheless allowed signs of the build- ings’ history to remain unaltered, as can

64 Summer 2011

be seen in the German words, directed at the prisoners of war who were brought to the camp, stenciled over the exits of the artillery shed, prohibiting entry by unauthorized persons (fig. 9). 21 More significant, the oftentimes nontraditional and industrial materials Judd used to forge what he saw as a more credible art, coupled with the elimination of framing devices and use of serial composition strategies (evident in the multiple varia- tions of equally sized aluminum boxes displayed in the Chinati artillery shed), invested the works with what many viewers considered threatening, aggres- sive, and even inhuman qualities. Judd’s pursuit of a more credible art, while ostensibly situated within the autonomous realm of aesthetics, nonetheless resonated with one of the central social and political concerns in U.S. culture at that time. For the concept of credibility, besides being a cornerstone of Judd’s art and aesthetic theory, was closely associated not merely with the war in Vietnam but with global nuclear war.

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The Credibility Gap Credibility was a key word in the “new frontier” of the 1960s.

The Credibility Gap

Credibility was a key word in the “new frontier” of the 1960s. If in 1962 Boorstin diagnosed what he saw as the increasingly deceptive nature of everyday life in a mediated and commodified world, a world in which, as he put it, “‘truth’ has been displaced by ‘believabil- ity,’” 22 by the second half of the decade the discourse surrounding credibility

65 American Art

was no longer directed only at com- modities and celebrities but also whole institutions, technology, and the fate of life on Earth. The central place of cred- ibility in terms of such weighty matters was manifested in one of the definitive terms of the period. In a special issue of Newsweek in July 1967 devoted to the escalating military predicament in Vietnam and its domestic consequences, the authors invoked a common phrase to summarize the social crisis brought about by the divisive feelings engendered by the war. “More than anything,” they wrote, “Vietnam has made Americans question their fundamental assumptions about themselves and their country. In the jargony shorthand of the mid-1960s, the problem is distilled into a single, cryptic phrase: the credibility gap.” 23 The phrase “credibility gap” had entered the lexicon of U.S. politics the previous year as the nation’s increased involvement in Vietnam led many people to discern the drastic divergence between the adminis- tration’s generally optimistic assessment of the war and the usually gruesome images daily brought into homes via television and newspapers. 24 While the shared nomenclature of Judd and the U.S. media need not insinuate any direct causal relationship, it does imply how the artist’s work operated within the broader cultural concerns of the moment, addressing some of the most pressing national anxieties. If the cred- ibility gap between the reality and the mediated representation of the Vietnam War produced a growing sense of mis- trust and unease among many citizens, Judd’s credible art, with its aggressive connotations and rhetoric of industrial and technological objectivity, was able simultaneously to assuage if not tempo- rarily mend the gap felt to be pervasive in American culture at large while at the same time (if largely unintentionally) figure the very basis of the anxiety that grounded his artistic practice of material specificity and credibility.

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10 Donald Judd, Untitled, 1969. Brass and colored fluorescent Plexiglas on steel brackets; ten pieces, overall: 116 ½ x 24 x 27 in.; each piece: 6 1/8 x 24 x 27 in., with 6 in. spaces between. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn © Judd Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photo, Lee Stalsworth

The credibility gap of the Vietnam War was genealogically linked to earlier gaps in Cold War discourse, such as the “bomber gap” and the “missile gap” of the late 1950s, which expressed in material terms the competitive arms race between the United States and the USSR. These gaps found their frightening resolution in October 1962 during the Cuban missile

United States” between 1961 and 1974, the real crisis of nuclear war could be successfully avoided only by the creation of unreal and largely symbolic crises, of which the communist threat in East Asia was the most visible and persistent example. According to Schell, “What the strategists of the Vietnam war had always most feared was not the reality of defeat

Irreconcilable Paradox

crisis. Following this event, U.S. citizens confronted the staggering realization that

but the appearance of defeat, and what they most wanted in Vietnam was not


nuclear conflict could readily bring

victory but victory’s image.” 25

about not only the total destruction of the two embattled nations but, just as likely, the entire world population. Once the United States had confronted its worst fears about nuclear war, coming

But an unbridgeable paradox existed within this logic and found its ultimate breaking point in the Vietnam War. For to acknowledge the theoretical or even theatrical nature of such military actions

as close as it ever had to its actual realiza- tion and in the process recognizing that to engage in such a war was to engage in

would inherently invalidate their manifest rationales and in turn expose the lurking atomic unease underpinning this policy


no-win operation of total annihilation,

of deterrence. In fact, the widening of

Washington sought a foreign policy that suppressed the possibility of nuclear war by transferring the competition between the superpowers away from each other and toward arenas in which they could clash without recourse to the bomb. To forestall further full-scale nuclear engage- ments with the Soviets, new spheres of competition were constructed in which

the credibility gap corresponded to the expansion of the nuclear arms race, a phe- nomenon recognized as early as 1957 by Henry Kissinger, who as Study Director in Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy at the Council of Foreign Relations wrote, “As the power of modern weapons grows, the threat of all-out war loses its credibil- [W]hatever the credibility of our

each country could present (and more particularly perform) its credibility. Along with the space race and the continued, if clandestine, nuclear brinkmanship, the war in Vietnam became a crucial com- ponent in this campaign of credibility: a conventional, limited war in which the two superpowers could meet and dem- onstrate their power and determination without recourse to nuclear weapons. This doctrine of credibility was often couched

threat of all-out war, it is clear that all-out thermonuclear war does not represent a strategic option for our allies. Thus a psychological gap is created by the convic- tion of our allies that they have nothing to gain from massive retaliation and by the belief of the Soviet leaders that they have nothing to fear from our threat of it.” 26

in such theories as the domino effect, which argued that if the United States showed lack of resolve when one small country was threatened by communism,

Judd’s aesthetic of credibility, founded on a faith in the undetermined and

impersonal capacities of nontraditional


would lose its international credibility

and industrial materials in art making,


called on to stave off further attacks.

contained its own irreconcilable paradox

According to this strategy, which histo- rian Jonathan Schell calls the “unvarying dominant goal of the foreign policy of the

whose logic in many ways paralleled the contradictory tensions motivating the credibility gap within American

66 Summer 2011

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67 American Art culture more broadly. While deliberately eschewing any form of visual illusion (in

67 American Art

culture more broadly. While deliberately eschewing any form of visual illusion (in that they do not represent something beyond themselves), many of Judd’s works, through their reflective surfaces, shadowy recesses, and translucent materials, nonetheless include instances of lived or perceptual illusion produced by their factureless and perfectly tooled surfaces. 27 As Richard Shiff has recently noted, Judd associated such perceptual or real optical illusions with scientific repeatability in that the artist believed each viewer would experience the same optical illusion similarly. Despite the artist’s avowed assertion of the empirical objectivity of such perceptual illusions, many viewers, especially in the 1960s, found this aspect of the works both crucial and disconcerting in that it seemed to contradict Judd’s aesthetics of credibility and the objective rhetoric of his chosen materials. 28 Within the nebulous reflections and shadowy spaces of Judd’s otherwise spe- cific objects resides a forbidding doubt as to whether such seemingly objective materials (because of their frequent con- notations of industrial production and technological precision) could indeed transcend the variable and unreliable realm of human action and perception and, in addition, whether such transcen- dence was even in the best interest of mankind. For instance, the burnished brass surfaces of an untitled stack from 1969 (fig. 10) seem to puncture any sense of geometric stability engendered by the work’s rigid rectangular structures, presenting the reflected environment as soupy, very nearly psychedelic swirls of colors and shapes. The crisply defined edges and corners of the uncompro- misingly self-evident materials offer a beholder no perceptual place of rest. Similarly, the towerlike space cumu- latively formed by the stacked units, powerfully illuminated by a crimson glow produced by light passing vertically through translucent Plexiglas sheets,

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11 Donald Judd, Untitled, 1968. Brass, 22 x 48 1/4 x 36 in. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Philip Johnson © Judd Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photo © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA /Art Resource, New York

produces an equally compelling visual ambiguity. Because of the technical flawlessness with which this work was constructed and because of its serial regularity, the light seems to corrode the

Plexiglas sheets, creating the convincing illusion that nothing encloses either the top or the bottom of the boxes. Again, as in the wedge-shaped piece from 1963 (see frontispiece), only when the beholder actively looks at the piece, that is, when the viewer bends over and then looks up

to see inside the work, can the specific construction of the stacks be ascertained and can the viewer actually see that each of the brass units has Plexiglas on both the top and bottom. (In some previous iterations of stacks from the early 1960s, Judd put Plexiglas only on the bottom of each unit). Robert Pincus-Witten, reviewing an exhibition of Judd’s work at the Castelli Gallery in 1970, described the ambigui- ties produced by a single-unit piece made

the ambigui- ties produced by a single-unit piece made 68 Summer 2011 This content downloaded from

68 Summer 2011

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of brass (fig. 11). Noting the material’s “apparent absence of solidity—the sense of liquidity—it induces,” the critic enumerated the perceptual paradoxes of the work, how “There are views, for example, of the polished brass box, in which the recessed top is simply denied, appears flush with the sides. There are other views in which the sides appear translucent rather than reflective, as if one saw the floor through the side rather than reflected off it.” According to Pincus-Witten, such effects, which he sees in formalistic terms as Judd’s attempt to reconcile “pictorial and sculptural experience,” demonstrate the artist’s “particularly coercive” engage- ment with the spectator, “forcing him into altered relationships with an elemental, at moments, brutalist, formal vocabulary.” Invoking the martial meta- phors frequently found in writings about minimal art, Pincus-Witten contends that Judd’s artworks can be considered “intransigeant barricades” against the blurring of art and life epitomized by artists like Robert Rauschenberg and John Cage, and that the perceptual ambiguities produced by Judd’s art reveal the artist’s “deep need to protect and reinvent the integrity of the Cubist and Constructivist vernacular at the moment when the great tradition of the Cubist monolith is most particularly assailed by the decorative appeals of technological intermedia.” 29 Like much of the fervently formalist criticism that was marshaled to understand the art of the 1960s (especially in the pages of Artforum), this analysis insinuates the historical pres- sures informing such art and its critical reception without ever addressing them head-on. Just as Fried could state in 1965 that such seemingly autonomous and arguably academic modernist painting as Kenneth Noland’s or Jules Olitski’s was “more desperately involved with aspects of its visual environment than painting has ever been,” Pincus-Witten’s attempt to situate Judd’s art within the modernist

69 American Art

trajectory of flatness and autonomy (as a means to evade being “assailed” by “tech- nological intermedia”) reveals the works’ significant (if negative) relationship with the burgeoning (and, for certain artists and critics alike, threatening) post- modern landscape of technological and commercial mediation. 30 That is to say, if modernist painting and Judd’s mini- malist objects were involved with what many commentators took to be a visual environment of technologically based spectacle, deception, and mediation, the invocation of illusion in these works (as in the vibrating tonalities of color field paintings like Noland’s and the percep- tual ambiguities of Judd’s art) would figure the very world of illusion they sought to counter and simultaneously defy it through an obdurate attentiveness to the essential qualities of their chosen medium or materials.

Apocalyptic Technology

Many of Judd’s best works from the 1960s exhibit this seemingly paradoxical dialectic of credible materiality and an unhinged perceptual and illusory experi- ence. While it seems likely that Judd invoked such illusionism to heighten the viewer’s sensitivity and skepticism, within his aesthetics of credibility, with its ardent anti-illusionism and foundational empiricism, the percep- tual ambiguity consistently produced by the ostensibly impartial materials he chose suggests a certain aporia, or gap—one that operated within the same technological anxiety that ultimately underlined the larger discourse of credibility in American culture. Judd himself never proclaimed any particular interest in technology, and even after 1964, when he had his works fabricated outside his studio, the process was less technological or even industrial than artisanal (since it was typically carried out by small, local firms like Bernstein

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12 Appearance of the monolith during solar eclipse in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey
12 Appearance of the monolith during solar eclipse in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

12 Appearance of the monolith during solar eclipse in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (MGM, 1968) Photofest © MGM. Photo, Kevin Bray

13 Missile launcher in Earth’s orbit in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (MGM, 1968) Photofest © MGM. Photo, Kevin Bray

Brothers or trained craftsmen working in a traditional workshop setting). Nonetheless, his art, with its technical precision and frequent use of uncon- ventional materials and its capacity to

seem to insert itself within the viewer’s physical space, led many viewers to regard it as concurrently futuristic and threatening. As the new technology that brought about the revolution in con- sumer culture during the postwar years began to be associated with specifically military and nuclear projects (as evinced in Rosenquist’s F-111), a widespread fear emerged in American culture that the very technological precision and progress that kept the country safe and made

70 Summer 2011

people’s lives easier would be the same force that might ultimately destroy civi- lization. Such sentiments were perhaps most clearly and famously expressed by philosopher Herbert Marcuse in his 1955 study Eros and Civilization, in which he described one of the central features of “late industrial civilization” as “the fact that the destruction of life (human and animal) has progressed with the progress of civilization, that cruelty and hatred and the scientific extermination of men have increased in relation to the real possibility of the elimination of oppression.” 31 The credibility gap in Judd’s art speaks to this crucial anxiety regard- ing the role of technology in American culture in the 1960s. Producing irrational reflections and perceptual ambiguities when encountered by a mobile human subject, Judd’s art exposes the Achilles heel of techno- logical objectivity: no matter how impersonal and objective a technology is, the human intervention necessary to enable it instigates a problematic doubling that cancels any possible detachment, making the object an inevitable “extension of man” (to borrow Marshall McLuhan’s description of technology). 32 During the 1960s, when technology seemed an increasingly inescapable presence in everyday life, mediating experience and even holding the fate of humankind in the balance, the question concerning man’s rela- tion to technology became especially critical. Reviewing an exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1969 that explored modern art’s relationship to technology, critic Max Kozloff diagnosed the growing “fear that our one-time extensions, the machines, are becoming our present competitors; that control and responsibility are becoming too vulnerably compressed; and that increased services by our goods and systems tend more to regulate than to liberate us.” 33 This fateful relation

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between man and machinery was played out with respective horror and humor in movies like Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove (both 1964), in which the combination of human error and technical intransi-

gence (evident in the fail-safe technology that supposedly removed the possibility of human error) lead the human race on a one-way course to extinction. The relation between minimal art and this daunting technological sublime plays

a central role in Stanley Kubrick’s

follow-up to Dr. Strangelove, his 2001:

A Space Odyssey from 1968, a film whose meticulous production values and

innovative special effects, which invite a particularly corporeal mode of spectator- ship, led Annette Michelson to compare

it to a minimalist “Primary Structure”

by invoking the exhibition of the same name of two years before. Michelson described the movie’s elaborate and costly production as an enterprise analogous to “the proud marshalling of vast resources brought to bear upon the most sophisticated and ambitious ventures of our culture,” such as “a new inter-continental missile system.” 34 The correlation between technological millenarianism and precisely wrought surfaces of minimal art is materialized in the mysterious black monolith that appears in the opening scenes of the film (fig. 12). After apparently bestowing the first human beings with consciousness (and, as described in Arthur C. Clarke’s accompanying novel, staving off the inevitable extinction of mankind from an extensive drought), the technologi- cal essence of this Primary Structure is revealed when a bone, recently discovered to be a valuable weapon by the proto-humans who touched the monolith, is thrown into the air, memo- rably morphing into an astronautical nuclear missile carrier and thus, through this famous edit, advances the film’s narrative from the “Dawn of Man” to the opposite and equally perilous end of humankind’s existence (fig. 13). 35

71 American Art

Judd’s Cold War Monuments

Reconciling the apparent contradiction between Judd’s aesthetics of credibility and the illusionistic effects produced by many of his chosen materials provides a possible means of understanding not only the opposition between the taciturn austerity of minimalism and the increas- ingly turbulent social environment of the 1960s but, if understood in terms of the works’ capacity to concurrently reflect and assuage the imperative issues surrounding war and technology, it also provides one possible explanation for minimalism’s ascendancy as the prevailing artistic style throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Judd, who saw his art as political in terms of its ability to encourage a clearer perception and heightened skepticism in the viewer and who repeatedly articulated an antiwar position in his public life, produced works of art that were not so much cri- tiques of the military industrial complex as complex meditations on its inherent contradictions and its relation to the larger culture. And while the techni- cal precision of Judd’s art resonated with the discourse of technological millenarianism grounded in the threat of nuclear war, the same technological anxieties found a ready materialization in the realities of Vietnam, a war in which computers and systems analysis were used to assess the most effective military strategies, leading the writers for Newsweek to describe it as “the most depersonalized war America has ever fought.” 36 Supervised by statistical masterminds like Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the Vietnam War, particularly in the years of minimal- ism’s heyday between 1964 and 1968, was considered, as David Halberstam defined it, “a technological war, a war which could be fought antiseptically, war without death,” thus applying the same technocratic ideology of nuclear war to a limited, non-nuclear war. 37

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72 Summer 2011 Judd’s art, described by critic John Perreault in 1967 as containing “the
72 Summer 2011 Judd’s art, described by critic John Perreault in 1967 as containing “the

72 Summer 2011

Judd’s art, described by critic John Perreault in 1967 as containing “the implied IBM numerology and the icy, science fiction surfaces of Flash Gordon bank vaults,” provides a crucial link between the fear of technology out of control, induced in part by U.S. nuclear policy, and the similar sense of political alienation and impotence that accompanied the country’s seemingly headlong advance into Vietnam—what Paul Goodman in 1966 called “the psychology of being powerless.” In this regard, the mute surfaces that contained within them a lurking sense of threat spoke to both the anomie and the aggres- sion that defined much of 1960s culture in the United States. 38 Considering the well-documented tendency to marginalize violence within the public sphere, there is in fact no necessary contradiction between the rise of minimalism and America’s escalating involve- ment in Vietnam. 39 One could even argue that it was precisely because of the growing violence and uncertainty in U.S. culture that such a hermetic, cool art found a ready audience, suggesting that if minimal art was not antiwar, it was in many ways pro-peace. “Vietnam’s contribution to the pop psyche has been uncommonly small.” Such was the verdict of the writers for the special issue of Newsweek dedicated to the war, which hit the newsstands at the same time as the issue of Artforum dedicated to sculpture and featuring such landmark essays as Morris’s “Notes on Sculpture 3” and Fried’s “Art and Objecthood.” “Despite the vocal torment of U.S. intellectuals,” wrote the editors of Newsweek, “it sometimes seems that America is doing its best to suppress awareness of the distant war.” 40 The fact that

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14 Claes Oldenburg, Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks , 1969. Cor-Ten steel, aluminum; coated with

14 Claes Oldenburg, Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks,

1969. Cor-Ten steel, aluminum;

coated with resin and painted with polyurethane enamel,


ft. 6 in. x 24 ft. 10 ½ in. x


ft. 11 in. Yale University Art

Gallery, Gift of Colossal Keepsake Corporation © Claes Oldenburg. Photo courtesy the Oldenburg van Bruggen Foundation

15 George Segal, The Execution,

1967. Plaster, 96 x 132 x

96 in. Vancouver Art Gallery,

Canada, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Diamond, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Diamond, and Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Diamond © The George and Helen Segal

Foundation / Licensed by

New York. Photo, Vancouver Art Gallery


16 William Morris Smith, Bull Run, Va. Dedication of the Battle Monument, 1865. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

such violent connotations were carried

in such mute vessels places Judd’s objects within a long tradition of aesthetic representations during times of war that

sublimated violence in the name of some

kind of ideological unity. 41 Within the nexus of technology and military violence that permeated American culture in the 1960s, Judd’s

work occupied a position of both resis- tance and reflection. The paradoxical duality in his art—appearing simultane- ously cool and confrontational—found

a ready audience in a society engaged in

a war that people increasingly distrusted

and felt powerless to change. While other artists of the period produced works that explicitly evoked martial motifs, such as Claes Oldenburg’s uncanny tank with a lipstick cannon (fig. 14), De Maria’s Bed of Spikes (see

fig. 4), or, more explicitly, George Segal’s Execution (fig. 15), which was illustrated in the Newsweek issue on Vietnam in

a section about artistic responses to

the war, Judd, true to his aesthetics of unmediated perception, insinuated into

73 American Art

his art the emotional affects of such weapons rather than their visual appear- ance. By assertively placing the onus of perceptual experience on the viewer, Judd’s art produced a stark (and at times threatening) correlative to the uneasiness felt by many viewers concerning the escalating war in Vietnam (and perhaps the larger dread of unbridled technology, manifested in most extreme terror in an all-out nuclear war). Like the cenotaph built in honor of the Union dead located on the Bull Run battlefield in Manassas, Virginia (fig. 16), which elegantly distills the ungainly realities of war, most notably the bodies of slain soldiers that could not be properly buried, into a unified and resolute (and notably nonobjective) form, Judd’s art conceals the anxieties of new technology that found their most pressing articulation in modern warfare under a stolid and silent surface. As in almost all war monuments, the violent content of Judd’s art is subsumed in the name of compositional unity and ideological closure. In his attempt to transcend what he saw as the irrational legacy of Western civilization through a faith in empirical objectivity, Judd none- theless produced art that equally bears the traces of war. Created at a moment when a growing number of U.S. citizens were beginning to question the integrity of their government’s policies both overseas and at home, Judd’s sculpture sought to counter a corresponding “credibility gap” between the known perceptual world and the assumed world of predigested images and ideas with objects of unwavering literalness, while simultaneously registering the anxiety of the historical conditions in which his work was produced. 42 In his art from the 1960s Judd revitalized the neglected tradition of sculptural monuments, even as he made markers for a country unsure of its ideals and suspicious of heroism. 43

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Research for this essay began as part of a shorter article in the Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin. My thanks to Jennifer Gross, curator of contemporary art at that gallery, for her invitation to write. I would also like to thank Jeffrey Saletnik, Jesse Hamilton, and Alexander Nemerov, who commented on drafts, and Andrew Preston, who brought the concept of the credibility gap to my attention.

1 Donald Judd, “Specific Objects,” Arts Yearbook 8 (1965): 74–82 and 183, reprinted in Complete Writings, 1959– 1975: Gallery Reviews, Book Reviews, Articles, Letters to the Editor, Reports, Statements, Complaints (Halifax: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1975), 184. The other reference is a negative one (184): “Painting and sculpture have become set forms. A fair amount of their meaning isn’t credible.”

2 For a discussion on Judd’s relation with British empiricism, see David Raskin, “Donald Judd,” in Donald Judd, ed. Nicholas Serota (London: Tate Gallery, 2004), 81, 92. Many of the major figures of British empiricism used the term “credible” in their central writ- ings. Most notably, John Locke, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), used the word “credibility” twenty-two times in the chapter “Extent of Human Knowledge.” Raskin notes that Judd quotes a passage of Locke’s book (without citation) in his essay “Specific Objects.”

3 Marianne Stockebrand, catalogue entry for Untitled (1963), in Serota, Donald Judd, 176.

4 Judd, “Specific Objects,” “In the Galleries [Robert Rauschenberg],” Arts 37 (May–June 1963), “In the Galleries [Lee Bontecou],” Arts 37 (January 1963), reprinted in Complete Writings, 202, 86, 65.

5 David Raskin, “Judd’s Moral Art,” in Serota, Donald Judd, 176. For the art- ist’s position on the political aspects of his art, see his statement in “The Artist and Politics: A Symposium,” Artforum 9 (September 1970): 36–37.

6 John Coplans, “An Interview with Don Judd,” Artforum 9 (June 1971): 45. For an early discussion of the role of tech- nology and industrial fabrication in Judd’s oeuvre, see Douglas Davis, Art

and the Future: A History / Prophecy of the Collaboration between Science, Technology and Art (New York: Praeger, 1973),


7 Sidney Tillim, “The New Avant-Garde,” Arts 38 (February 1964): 20; John Perreault, “Plastic Ambiguities,” Village Voice, March 7, 1968, 19. All of Judd’s works were untitled, yet many of them, especially the early plywood works from 1962 to 1964 (i.e., the ones the artist made himself), were given colloquial names to identify them. For a discussion of the application of these “sobriquets,” see James Meyer, Minimalism: Art and Polemics in the Sixties (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2001), 50, 280 n. 24. In an interview with John Coplans from 1971, Judd seems amenable to the critic’s refer- ence to one work as “the ladder piece,” suggesting that he recognized such allu- siveness as an inherent vice of these works. Coplans, “An Interview with Don Judd,” 43.

8 David Batchelor persuasively demon- strates how Judd’s use of color, especially in his choice of Plexiglas, often had industrial and specifically automotive connotations. See Batchelor, “Everything Is Colour,” in Serota, Donald Judd, 65–75. For a discussion of how the min- imalist practice of serialism operated within a similar logic of industrial pro- duction found in the pop art of the time, see Meyer, Minimalism, 185–88.

9 Daniel Boorstin, The Image, or What Happened to the American Dream (New York: Atheneum, 1962), 240, 258, 261.

10 The clearest statement of the role of bodily movement in minimalism is Robert Morris, “Notes on Sculpture, Part I,” reprinted in Minimal Art:

A Critical Anthology, ed. Gregory Battcock (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1968), 222–35. While Judd emphasized the optical aspects of his art, compelling readings highlighting this bodily engagement have been for- mulated in Rosalind Krauss, “Allusion and Illusion in Donald Judd,” Artforum 4 (May 1966): 24–26.

11 Rosalind Krauss provides a similar reading of minimal art in “The Cultural Logic of the Late Capitalist Museum,” October 54 (Fall 1990): 3–17, noting (10), “Minimalism seems to have been conceived in specific resistance to the

74 Summer 2011

fallen world of mass culture—with its disembodied media images—and of consumer culture—with its banalized, commodified objects—in an attempt to restore the immediacy of experience.”

12 A similar blurring between art and life was posthumously attributed to the paintings of Jackson Pollock. The most well-known example of this argument can be found in Allan Kaprow, “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” Art News 57 (October 1958): 24–26, 55–57.

13 Barbara Reise, “Untitled 1969: A Footnote on Art and Minimal– Stylehood,” Studio International (April 1969): 168; Hilton Kramer, “Art: Constructed to Donald Judd’s Specifications,” New York Times, February 19, 1966, 23; John Perreault, “Union Made, Report on a Phenomenon,” Arts 41 (March 1967):

26; James R. Mellow, “Everything Sculpture Has, My Work Doesn’t,” New York Times, March 10, 1968, D21; Judd, “Specific Objects,” 80; Mellow, “Everything Sculpture Has”; Jane Harrison Cone, “Judd at the Whitney,” Artforum 6 (May 1968): 39.

14 Anna Chave, in her groundbreaking essay, “Minimalism and the Rhetoric of Power,” Arts 64 (January 1990):

44–63, demonstrated the underly- ing and, according to her argument, deeply gendered ways in which minimal art presented itself and was received as aggressive and powerful.

15 “Art,” Time, June 3, 1966, 64; “Art,” Time, May 2, 1969, 54; Judd, “Lee Bontecou,” Arts 39 (April 1965), reprinted in Collected Writings, 179; Michael Fried, “Art and Objecthood,” Artforum 5 (June 1967): 12–23, reprinted in Battcock, Minimal Art, 135.

16 Annette Michelson, “Robert Morris: An Aesthetics of Transgression,” in Robert Morris (Washington, D.C.: Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1969), 78 n. 18.

17 The subject of war became a major theme in Morris’s oeuvre, demonstrated in his 1964 dance performance War and continuing in a large body of work from the 1980s and 1990s such as the Firestone Series (1982–83) and Restless Sleepers / Atomic Shroud (1991). On Morris’s engagement with the politics of the Vietnam War, see Maurice Berger,

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Labyrinths: Robert Morris, Minimalism, and the 1960s (New York: Harper and Row, 1989), 107–23.

18 David Raskin, “Specific Opposition:

Judd’s Art and Politics,” Art History 24 (November 2001): 682–706.

19 Donald Judd, “Nie Wieder Krieg,” in Donald Judd, Architecture, ed. Peter Noever (Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2003), 16.

20 For a discussion of Judd’s experiences as

a civil engineer in Korea, see Urs Peter

Flückiger, Donald Judd: Architecture in Marfa, Texas (Basel: Birkhäuser, 2007), 32. On the former military uses of the Chinati site, see Nicolas Serota, “Donald Judd: A Sense of Place, Judd in Marfa between 1971–1994,” in Serota, Donald Judd, 98–110.

341, 66. For an insightful discussion on the relationship between war, and spe- cifically nuclear arms, and the culture of spectacle, see Paul Virilio, War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception, trans. Patrick Camiller (London:

Verso, 1988).

26 Henry Kissinger, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957), 134.

27 Rosalind Krauss was perhaps the first critic to recognize the illusory qualities of Judd’s art, noting in particular how Judd rejected pictorial illusion but empha- sized lived or perceptual illusion. See her “Allusion and Illusion in Donald Judd.”

28 Richard Shiff, “Donald Judd, Safe from Birds,” in Serota, Donald Judd, 41–42.

29 Robert Pincus-Witten, “Fining It Down:

21 For Judd’s account of his purchase of Fort Russell and ambivalence about the site’s previous incarnation, see Donald Judd, “Artillery Sheds” (1989), in Chinati:

The Vision of Donald Judd, ed. Marianne Stockebrand (Marfa, Tex.: Chinati Foundation, in association with Yale Univ. Press, 2009), 272–86.

22 Boorstin, The Image, 226.

23 “A Nation at Odds,” Newsweek, July 10, 1967, 17.

24 The first appearance of the term in the New York Times occurred in John D. Morris, “G.O.P. Chiefs Score Use of Statistics,” March 18, 1966, 56. By August of that year it had become

a headline topic. See Tom Wicker,

“The Inevitable Credibility Gap,” New York Times, August 12, 1966, 30; “The ‘Credibility Gap’ Widens in Massillon, Ohio: A Town’s Troubled Mood as a War Comes Home,” Life, August 2, 1966, 50–56; and Kenneth Crawford, “The Credibility Gap,” Newsweek, January 16, 1967, 32. For

a comprehensive analysis of the diplo-

matic use of credibility in postwar U.S. foreign policy, see Frank Ninkovich, “Wilsonianism at Work: Credibility Crises of the 1950s and 1960s,” in The Wilsonian Century: U.S. Foreign Policy since 1900 (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1999), 183–214.

25 Jonathan Schell, The Time of Illusion (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976),

Don Judd at Castelli,” Artforum 8 (June 1970): 48, 49.

30 Michael Fried, “Three American Painters” (1965), reprinted in Art and Objecthood (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1998), 260. For a discussion of the relation between Fried’s aesthetic theory and the rise of information theory in the 1960s, see Pamela Lee, Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960s (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004), esp. 37–81.

31 Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization:

A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (1955; New York: Vintage, 1962), 79.

32 Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York:

McGraw-Hill, 1964).

33 Max Kozloff, “Men and Machines,” Artforum 7 (February 1969): 23.

34 Annette Michelson, “Bodies in Space:

Film as Carnal Knowledge,” Artforum 7 (February 1969): 56.

35 The specific nuclear connotations of the movie are made explicit in Arthur C. Clarke’s novel, written in collaboration with Kubrick’s film. For instance, in the final paragraphs of the novel, the Star Child detonates “the circling megatons” of “a slumbering cargo of death” orbiting Earth. See Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968; New York: Penguin, 1993), 236.

36 “A Nation at Odds,” 19.

75 American Art

37 David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest (New York: Random House, 1972), 513.

38 John Perreault, “No One Has Clearly Pointed Out,” Village Voice, January 12,

1967, reprinted in Battcock, Minimal Art, 259. Paul Goodman, “The Psychology of Being Powerless,” New York Review

of Books, November 3, 1966, 14–18.

On Judd’s relation to technology, and in particular the modernization of New York City, see Joshua Shannon, The Disappearance of Objects (New Haven:

Yale Univ. Press, 2009), 150–86.

39 On the representation of violence in the Western tradition, see Leo Bersani and Ulysee Dutoit, “The Forms of Violence,” October 8 (Spring 1979): 17–29. For a contemporaneous discussion on the ten- dency to marginalize public violence, see Hannah Arendt, On Violence (New York:

Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1970).

40 “A Nation at Odds,” 19.

41 See Michel Ragon, The Space of Death:

A Study of Funerary Architecture,

Decoration, and Urbanism, trans. Alan

Sheridan (Charlottesville: Univ. of Virginia Press, 1983).

42 Surveys done during the 1960s identified a steady decline in the general pub- lic’s trust in government and sense of its political efficacy; see Philip E. Converse, “Change in the American Electorate,” in The Human Meaning of Social Change, ed. Angus Campbell and Converse (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1972), cited in Arthur H. Miller, “Political Issues and Trust in Government: 1964– 1970,” American Political Science Review 68 (September 1974): 951.

43 Writing in 1966, Robert Smithson detected what he called “a new kind of monumentality” in the work of a group of young artists associated with the min- imalist movement (singling out Judd):

“Instead of causing us to remember the past like the old monuments, the new monuments seem to cause us to forget the future.” Smithson, “Entropy and the New Monuments,” Artforum 4 (June 1966), reprinted in Robert Smithson:

The Collected Writings, ed. Jack Flam (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1996), 10–11.

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