By Deborah Bouchette, Cohort ’12
From several directions, we drift towards the gathering place in onesies and twosies, pre-dawn and hushed, as if druids drawn to a sacred grove. But this place has little in the way of arboreal sheltering, for it is in the dry Chihuahan desert of south Texas: our own shadows are only shorter than those of a few scrawny cacti and those made by what I might call two giant “specific structures.” These structures are Donald Judd’s repurposed army artillery sheds, and not your backyard-garden-shed variety. They have the volume and presence of large, barrel-vaulted aircraft hangers. And I am playing on the word “specific” in response to Judd’s “Specific Objects” essay of 1965 (Arts Yearbook 8), in which he attempted to position his brooding and repetitive tetragonal artworks as lying between painting and sculpture. Many of Judd’s “specific objects” are housed in these “specific structures.”
This is the most delicious time of the waking day—cool for only a couple of precious hours—and the cowl overhead of deep lapis blue is capitulating to rose and orange in the East as if to roll out a broad carpet in anticipation of the sun’s arrival. The doors are opened and the forty or so of us seem to rush inside without hurrying—as if floating on the pent-up energy of an unseen wave. The cool air emanating from the concrete floor presses us to stay hushed in this cathedral-like space. Judd’s orthogonally arranged stainless steel “specific objects” summon in the manner of idealized tables: “come gather to appreciate my bounty.” Each is different! Some have no top! Some have a shelf or a slot or a side that’s missing, or there is a box within a box. Suddenly the differences eclipse the repetition. Their multitudinous brushed surfaces echo and angle the gaining light that warms us through the mass of mullioned windows. They bounce and play with reflections of our passing torsos. They drink in the infinity of color and light and they laugh without language.
We seem to stake out positions for the show as more and more people arrive. Some remain outside sprinkled in the tufted acres of ampitheater that spread toward the sun. The air has lost its nighttime chill and the cups of coffee no longer exhale their twists of steam. An arhythmic clatter of shutters speaks to camera settings being tested. And then at last, the liquid gold bursts through the loose weft of wispy clouds, and we are the new day.