101 Spring Street: Permanent Installation and the Art of the Anti-Domestic

Do not touch. Don’t touch. Do. Not. Touch.

“I spent a great deal of time placing the art and a great deal designing the renovation in accordance. Everything from the first was intended to be thoroughly considered and to be permanent,” writes Donald Judd in his essay “101 Spring Street.” The Judd Foundation clearly obeyed the artist’s wishes for the newly opened residence-museum, according to Judd’s own concept of the “permanent installation,” which “centered on the belief that the placement of a work of art was as critical to its understanding as the work itself.” All five floors of 101 Spring Street have been presented to look as they did in 1994, with the artist’s furniture, accessories and art impeccably arranged — so still, like they are glued on the the wall or to the floor to hinder any shifting. It’s hard to imagine that anyone ever lived there. But this is Donald Judd’s house. The Most Minimal Minimalist (but don’t call him that). Each floor displays art made by either him or his friends (Dan Flavin, Claes Oldenburg, Frank Stella to name a few) in the 1960s and 1970s; 101 Spring has always been a gallery. Judd curated his pals’ artwork (acquired by bartering his own in return) along with signature pieces he felt most embodied the spirit of the space.

Judd wrote in 1986 “art and architecture — all the arts — do not have to exist in isolation, as they do now...all the arts, in fact all parts of society, have to be rejoined, and joined more than they have ever been.” The artist fused house and studio together at 101 Spring, and the result is a space that lacks the defining features of either. The studio suffers from having to yield to chores, making meals, and sleeping, while the house loses its ability to be a place of refuge, of recharging one’s batteries. Work can then preoccupy at all times.

The curious thing about transforming an artist’s home, or indeed anyone’s home, into a museum, gallery, or other artificially preserved space is the degree to which it becomes the antithesis of domestic. The home, your home, my home, a home should represent some level of comfort to the resident, where a sense of belonging in/to the space is inherent. Windowpanes smudged by oily fingers, a depression in the mattress, etc. are missing here; any trace that a body, living and breathing, had inhabited the space seemed to have been lost during the process of embalming. The absence of the corporal is a striking feature of 101 Spring, and it begs the question: was this how Judd and his family really lived? Judd’s home as “permanent installation” program suggests that they did. Yet even if small liberties were taken in the reconstruction, does knowing the environment is staged detract from an overall appreciation of Judd’s concept? No.

That’s a “look into” space, not a “go into” space.

101 Spring has the tendency to feel lifeless, projecting a hollowness not unlike the large metal work on the third floor. But this residence, ironically, was not built primarily for living, but for thinking (or as Judd describes it “his cerebral practice”). Visitors should be forewarned: very few household secrets are shared. It was forbidden to enter the alcove library and see what Judd liked to read (it would have been nice to see what texts inspired him). On one hand, the building feels so impersonal, devoid of vivacity; on the other, it is impossible to extricate Judd from the surroundings. He’s all over the walls, in every room. And immediately, it becomes the most private, personal space.

Every item displayed at 101 Spring exists because Judd wanted it to be there, in a specific spatial arrangement, fulfilling his vision of the relationship between art and architecture. In his essay “Specific Objects,” Judd writes “A work needs only to be interesting....It isn’t necessary for a work to have a lot of things to look at, to compare, to analyze one by one, to contemplate. The thing as a whole, its quality as a whole, is what is interesting.” He succeeded in what he set out to do — the integration of art with architecture. Judd’s expression of the domestic is unique (and interesting) because it subverts traditional ideas of what domesticity is and should be. 

LA Art Book Fair

It was entirely possible to attend every day of Printed Matter’s second annual LA Art Book Fair last weekend and discover something completely new and surprising each time. With a curated selection of the best exhibitors of art books, artists’ publications, and zines, the festival was a celebration of everything that is great about independent publishing. The vibe was friendly and relaxed, and the open-plan space at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA made wandering around enjoyable. This free event meant that you could pop in to hear a lecture in the Classroom, then head outside to get lunch at a food truck while listening to an awesome band, then go back inside to buy a print repeatedly — it was designed to allow you to spend hours there.

And with ATMs and delicious Demistasse drip coffee on-site, there was really no reason to ever leave. Volunteers greeted attendees with a map upon entry, crucial for navigating the space and making sure you were able to find whichever publication you were most looking forward to seeing. Turning right into the Geffen Annex brought you to XE(ROX) & PAPER + SCISSORS, where lovely people from Glasgow’s Good Press, Portland’s Publication Studio, and LA’s own Women’s Center for Creative Work were eager to chat about their books, pamphlets, and other printed material. It was here that visitors could view Fabulosity,an exhibition of NYC Club Kid Culture in the 1980s and 90s by Alexis Dibaisio, in conjunction with a book of the same name by Wild Life Press (UK). If you happened to turn left, up the ramp and onto the mezzanine, you would be in the exhibit space of Printed Matter’s own QUEER ZINES, a curated, but completely comprehensive, selection of work from the personal collections of Philip Aarons and AA Bronson. Various exhibitions were dotted along the walls of the Geffen and were always a delight to find.

The events were particularly strong, creating fresh dialogues in and around contemporary art criticism. Johan Kugelberg from Boo-Hooray lectured in the Classroom on Saturday about the process of creating and preserving archives, the notion of microhistories, and the difficulties associated with recording culture (he highlighted his work with Cornell University to create the Hip-Hop Collection in particular). Or, how to archive a practice that hasn’t been self-documenting? On Sunday, an impressive line-up of artists gathered to perform excerpts from John Baldessari’s own writing, collected in volumes 1&2 of More Than You Wanted to Know About John Baldessari. Each speaker decided how to best present the work: some sang them, some interpreted them through movements or dance, some invited audience participation. So cool to see Baldessari himself in the audience, laughing along with the rest of us.

I’d never think of missing the NYABF, and I don’t know how I’ll be able to miss the LAABF now — such a quality experience all-around.

Introductions: When your name closely resembles a popular piece of pop culture

I started my search for another sublet last week. I need to be out of my current place at the end of the month and, because I'm lazy, I just started this four days ago. I was casually searching on Craigslist when I found something that I thought might suit me. I wrote back to the anonymous email address and was surprised to see a response an hour or so later.

We exchanged one brief email each before it was written, "Have you seen Twin Peaks?" It wasn't that exact phrase, but I've heard enough variations to know that was what this person was getting at. "Have you seen Twin Peaks?" is the polite way of saying that your name closely resembles that of character who's grisly murder investigation captivated audiences in the early 90s. I can't figure out if people mention the association because they think it's cool, or because it's weird. Or both.

Well, anyway, hello.