"In New York in the fifties among artists geometry was unspeakable. An enlarged old-fashioned expressionism derived from de Kooning was prevalent to the point of academicism. All painting that was geometric in any way was considered old-fashioned, idealistic, rationalistic, rigid and therefore European."
"Big paintings were the fashion, a recent academicizing of genuine large paintings, and so for a second reason Albers’s work was disregarded..."
"Among those supposedly interested in art, Albers’ work is underrated. During the time when he was working his work was underrated, though less so among artists, but still among artists. In New York in the fifties among artists geometry was unspeakable. An enlarged old-fashioned expressionism derived from de Kooning was prevalent to the point of academicism. All painting that was geometric in any way was considered old-fashioned, idealistic, rationalistic, rigid and therefore European. More seriously and mysteriously, surrealism, a source for Pollock and Rothko and the others, was not considered either old-fashioned or harmfully European. Neither were Picasso and Matisse.
Albers was respected as a teacher, which was something of a condemnation, and relegated to the Bauhaus as a painter. Burgoyne Diller and Leon Polk Smith were ignored and more surprisingly, Fritz Glarner, who lived in New York. Ellsworth Kelly returned from Paris after the rapid collapse of the expressionist academy. Reinhardt’s paintings were anathema. As Newman’s paintings became more geometric, he too was anathematized. The paintings by Albers and Reinhardt are small paintings, but due to their nature it is hard to call them easel paintings. Big paintings were the fashion, a recent academicizing of genuine large paintings, and so for a second reason Albers’s work was disregarded..."
"In my review of November 1964 I was mildly critical of some of Albers’s paintings; I wouldn’t be now. My main regret is that I underestimated the importance of educating beginning artists in art. My own education in art was so bad that it was hard to see that help was possible. Starting from nothing it was hard to imagine it possible to start from three or four. And then, what is to be taught? Almost anything will be irrelevant and become a barrier. But everyone has to begin and everyone will make barriers anyway. As part of the general underestimation, I underestimated the usefulness for others, not Albers, of his color theory. First, something that might be useful and relevant must be taught, which is certainly the color theory. Second, real thought about recent and past art is always relevant. Third, mainly, since attitudes and generalizations are part of the nature and the level of quality of art, it’s absolutely necessary that beginning artists, who are not really students, be taught by first rate artists, who like what they do and like their activity as a whole and assume that art is meant to be first-rate. The students of Albers were smart to have chosen him and lucky he was there. This is obviously the opposite of the prevailing situation in which tenured amateurs drearily teach further tenured amateurs from reproductions in art magazines..."
The following essays (1959-1964) were published in Donald Judd, Complete Writings, 1959- 1975, The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1975. They are reprinted here with permission from Judd Foundation.
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