Katherine Du Tiel

A newly opened exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) takes a closer look at Donald Judd's practice as a furniture designer. The late American artist, often associated with the Minimalism movement of the early 1960s, is known for his modern sculptures. It wasn't until the late 1960s that Judd began designing and making furniture. This shift in his career coincided with the purchase of 101 Spring St., a five-story, cast-iron building in New York's SoHo neighborhood, that later served as his personal residence and studio, and for which he designed furniture throughout the rest of his life.

Mancia/Bodmer

Curated by Joseph Becker, associate curator of architecture and design at SFMOMA, "Donald Judd: Specific Furniture" looks beyond Judd's career as a sculptor and examines his furniture pieces independent from his works of art. The show features more than 30 furniture items and 25 original hand drawings from Judd Foundation and SFMOMA collections and outside loans. Visitors to this exhibition can also sit on and touch eight newly fabricated pieces by Donald Judd Furniture, before and after the show. Additionally, a selection of Judd's collected pieces by iconic architects and designers such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Alvar Aalto, Gerrit Rietveld, and Rudolph Schindler is on display.

Matthew Millman
Matthew Millman

Using simple utilitarian forms, Judd created furniture items, ranging from chairs to coffee tables to beds. "[His] designs emerged out of a need for simple and functional furniture, developed in response to what he saw as an absence of good and available pieces," according to a press release.

Matthew Millman

“I am often told that the furniture is not comfortable, and in that not functional,” Judd wrote in a 1993 essay for "Donald Judd Furniture: Retrospective" exhibition at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, Netherlands. “The source of the question is in the overstuffed bourgeois Victorian furniture, which, as I said, never ceased. The furniture is comfortable to me. Rather than making a chair to sleep in or a machine to live in, it is better to make a bed. A straight chair is best for eating or writing. The third position is standing.”

Katherine Du Tiel

“Judd’s rigorous research and exploration of form and scale in his artworks extended into his interests in design and architecture. Truly a spatial practice, Judd’s holistic approach to the objects that he created and surrounded himself with is evident in his refined, if not nuanced, works,” Becker said in the same release. “We are excited to offer visitors the unique opportunity to understand Judd’s furniture by presenting eight pieces that can be sat on before and after viewing the exhibition.”

Katherine Du Tiel

"Donald Judd: Specific Furniture" will be on view at SFMOMA through Nov. 8.