It was with ambivalence that Donald Judd first approached the woodcut medium in 1953. The physical, messy nature of carving the wood initially caused trepidation for an artist who did not like to work with his hands or fuss with tools. Yet the woodcut medium afforded Judd a crucial moment of artistic experimentation. His drawings and lithographs up to this point had included flowing lines and blended colors, but the hard birch woodcuts allowed only sharp, clean lines. Judd was thereby encouraged to graduate from his initial figurative experimentations of 1953 to briefly engage with the organic, abstract shapes of 1955-1960, before reaching the clarity and power of the parallelograms of 1961.
The straight lines of these shapes, however, are difficult to create in wood, requiring cuts across the grain that surpassed Judd's skills and tools, and so he turned to his woodworking father, Roy, for assistance. Prior to his father's involvement, Judd would carve the wood himself before printing one or two copies. It was a process of thinking with his hands — thinking through doing. Once he had relinquished the labor of cutting the wood, Judd was able to take a step back and isolate the ideas in his head from the making process, which now required translation and became more deliberate. Together, father and son embarked on a collaborative printmaking venture that would free Judd from the burden of making and allow his woodcuts to evolve into the mature rectilinear forms
Private Collection, NY
Donald Judd & Sol LeWitt, The Bonnier Gallery, Miami, March 28 - May 30, 2020