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Donald Judd Conference in Portland

one-day conference in April at U of O

By Lisa Radon March 17, 2010

Donald Judd

In November of 1974, in a space a couple floors above where Backspace is today in Old Town, a crew of volunteers built a plywood installation, a Donald Judd, from a drawing by the artist. Paul Sutinen, Co-Chair of the Art Department and Director of Arts Programs at Marylhurst University, vividly remembers crawling around in the u-shaped box that hugged three walls of what was then the Portland Center for the Visual Arts’ (PCVA) expansive space, screwing the sheets of plywood together from the inside.

It was just one of the important installations and exhibitions that PCVA staged in the 70s and 80s. Carl Andre, Sol Lewitt, Daniel Buren, Richard Serra, Dan Flavin, Robert Morris, Alice Aycock, Robert Irwin, Bruce Nauman, James Turrell, Frank Stella, and Vito Acconci all came to town. Lucy Lippard curated a NW survey show. Allan Kaprow did "Routine" here. The audience for Chuck Close was SRO. And that’s not to mention dance by choreographers like Yvonne Rainer.

On Sunday, April 25, 2010, Portland’s arts community has another opportunity to consider the Donald Judd installation and the larger issues it raises about Judd’s work and its fabrication at Donald Judd: Delegated Fabrication, a one-day conference with Robert Storr, Dean of the Yale School of Art and longtime Judd fabricator Peter Ballantine at the University of Oregon in Portland, White Stag Block (70 NW Couch Street).

An exhibition of original documents—invoices, drawings, correspondence, all from Ballantine’s private collection—trace how Judd’s work went from sketch to fabrication. In a second black box, there will be films about Judd.

I talked to Conference Director and Portland-based artist/writer Arcy Douglass, who organized the conference with Peter Ballantine.

What was the initial impetus for the conference?

When writing about Judd’s installation at Portland Center for the Visual Arts for a piece called Looking at Donald Judd, I got to thinking about how no one had really talked about how Judd’s work got made. To me, as an ex-architect, it seems like a fundamental question: how does it go from Judd’s initial idea to finished piece? The Judd Foundation put me in touch with Peter Ballantine, Judd’s fabricator for over 25 years. I met with him in New York to interview him. After two days and eight hours of conversation, Ballantine said, "This is not an interview, it’s a conference."

There are two fundamental issues. One, the piece in Portland was fantastic, an example of all PCVA was doing so well. And two, considering Judd is a very famous American artist, no one is talking about some of the core issues at center of his work.

I know there were other Judd plywood installations, Portland wasn’t the first was it? Was the first in Germany?

Germany was later. The first were in London at the Lisson Gallery, I believe in January 1974. PCVA was the third piece.

Peter feels like built-in plywood pieces are really some of Judd’s most radical work. He’ll talk about the family of plywood works, how it fits in with rest of Judd’s work.

What is Robert Storr going to be talking about?

Robert will talk about why this is all still important in a contemporary context. And Bruce Guenther [Chief Curator at the Portland Art Museum] will give an introduction to Judd’s work, to PCVA and the installation at PCVA.

[I tell him about talking to Sutinen.] I don’t remember Paul talking about Ballantine being here for the install. I know Judd wasn’t.

No, and Mary [Beebe, director of PCVA] had to scramble to get money to pay for it. She couldn’t raise money to pay for plywood. Finally, she negotiated with Stimson Lumber to borrow plywood. Afterward, they returned it and Stimson sold it as, "slightly used."

Peter says whenever he talks about the conference he gets two questions.
1. why hasn’t this been done before? and
2. why isn’t this happening in New York?

Follow Arcy’s blog about the conference at Already he has put together a Judd reading list. Registration is $65 for early registration by March 22, $85 after and $35 for students.

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