The best art cultural experience this past year was during my stay in Marfa, Texas, doing an artist residency at Marfa Contemporary. While there, I had the opportunity to visit the Chinati Foundation on various occasions and see Donald Judd’s 100 untitled works in aluminum, essentially 100 cubes/boxes, no two the same, in two former artillery sheds at various times of the day.
Not having been a lifelong fan of Judd’s work, which for me had always been too reductive and austere, this installation completely changed my mind and opened me up to new ways of seeing his work. I could go on for a paragraph describing what I saw, but it is one of those experiences that you have to see for yourself to get what is going on with these pieces. The experience of viewing them is never the same because the work is constantly changing in front of you due to the light that permeates the space.
I also found the work of Roni Horn, exhibited in its own space at Chinati, to be stunningly simple and beautiful — two truncated copper cones, 35 inches long, situated on their sides at opposite ends on the floor of a small artillery shed. Again the power of this work lies in the effect of the space in concert with what is placed in it. My response to both of these installations was silence. The works are about being quiet and slow and allowing the work to unfold in front of you over a span of time. It is about being in the moment and perceiving that moment fully. I understand well why Judd went to Marfa — the light, the conversation between the sky and the land ringed by mountains faraway on all sides of the horizon. And then, the quiet, being away from it all.
As the brochure at the city’s welcome center says about Marfa: “Tough to get to. Tougher to explain. But once you get here … you get it.”
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