Local History: Donald Judd and Green Gallery

“A gallery across Fifty-Seventh Street from the Wise, the Green Gallery, beginning its second year, is interesting because of its wide presentation of unknown but inventive young painters and sculptors. It is something of an uptown Tenth Street gallery.” – Donald Judd

This is how Donald Judd closed his early essay, “New York City – A World Art Center,” published in Envoy in Winter 1962. In this essay Judd surveys a number of New York’s most significant museums (“The exceedingly impressive Frick Collection is small enough to be seen in a few hours”; “It is The Museum of Modern Art which has shown the power and quality of American Art”), as well as an assessment of notable galleries, singling out Green Gallery, an uptown gallery that showed work by downtown artists.

Founded by Richard Bellamy, Green Gallery opened in 1960. In January 1963, just a few months after Judd published “New York City-A World Art Center,” he exhibited three works in Green Gallery’s New Work: Part I exhibition, which also included work by Milet Andrejevic, Dan Flavin, Yayoi Kusama, Robert Morris, Larry Poons, Lucas Samaras, and George Segal. Although Judd had exhibited his first freestanding piece in November 1962, as part of a faculty show at the Brooklyn Museum, it was in New Work: Part I where his shift from painting to sculpture was announced. In December 1963, Judd had his first solo exhibition of work in three-dimensions at Green Gallery, exhibiting pieces which he had made within the last year.

Judd permanently installed a number of the pieces in the exhibition in New York at 101 Spring Street and in Marfa at La Mansana de Chinati/The Block.

In an interview from 1971 undertaken for an exhibition at the Pasadena Art Museum, John Coplans addressed the radical break that Judd had made with the tradition of sculpture, noting that the works in his 1963 Green Gallery exhibition demonstrated this rupture, stating: “The Green Gallery show was in 1963. By this time the question of sculpture without a base was central to your work,” asking Judd, “Did you now consider yourself a sculptor?” Judd replied:

“I had always considered my work another activity of some kind. I was surprised when I made those first two free-standing pieces, to have something set out into the middle of the room. It puzzled me. On the one hand, I didn’t quite know what to make of it, and on the other, they suddenly seemed to have an enormous number of possibilities. It looked at that point and from then on that I could do anything. Anyway, I certainly didn’t think I was making sculpture. I liked Mark di Suvero and David Smith, but I didn’t think what they did had much to do with me.”

As The New York Times wrote in 1998, “Green Gallery was one of the most important showcases of avant-garde art during the American art explosion of the early 1960’s.” As Judith Stein records in her 2016 biography of Bellamy, Eye of the Sixties: Richard Bellamy and the Transformation of Modern Art, “‘New art when I can find it,” read an ad Dick ran in the Green’s early years.” Some of the early shows at Green Gallery included exhibitions of work by Mark di Suvero, George Segal, Lucas Samaras, and Claes Oldenburg (his uptown debut). In an interview with Judd in 1990, Judd praised Bellamy and Green Gallery while commenting on the dearth of good curators and installations, stating:

“I’ve come across very few museum curators, directors and gallery people who take it seriously and could do it well. It can be done. One person, I haven’t seen enough, is Brydon Smith in Canada from The National Gallery. Brydon made a room look very good with beautiful pieces. And a dealer I do like a great deal in New York, Richard Bellamy, did very nice installations at the Green Gallery in the sixties: many shows looked good. Two people have and thirty haven’t.”

Over two years, Judd exhibited five times at Green Gallery. He participated in its last show, an informal tribute to David Smith who died a few days before the show opened in May 1965. The exhibition announcement includes a large image of work of Judd’s from 1964, To Susan Buckwalter, a piece dedicated to a friend and collector in Kansas City, Susan Buckwalter (this remained one of the only titled works in Judd’s oeuvre).

List of Donald Judd’s solo and group exhibitions at Green Gallery:

New Work: Part I, January 8-February 2, 1963. Included works by Milet Andrejevic, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Yayoi Kusama, Robert Morris, Larry Poons, Lucas Samaras, and George Segal.

Don Judd, December 17, 1963-January 11, 1964.

New Work: Part III, April 8-May 2, 1964. Included works by Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Larry Poons, Richard Smith, Neil Williams, Kaymar, and George Segal.

New Work (Contemporary American Group Show), October 24-November 14, 1964. Included works by Richard Smith, Donald Judd, Mark di Suvero, Neil Williams, Dan Flavin, Miles Forest, and Lee Lozano.

Flavin, Judd, Morris, Williams, May 26-June 2, 1965.

 

Images from top to bottom: Installation view of Don Judd, Green Gallery, New York, December 17, 1963-January 11, 1964; Poster for Don Judd, Green Gallery, New York, December 17, 1963-January 11, 1964; Donald Judd, untitled, 1963, cadmium red light and black oil on wood with galvanized iron and aluminum; Donald Judd, untitled, 1963, cadmium red light oil on wood and purple enamel on aluminum. Joshua White; Poster for Flavin, Judd, Morris, Williams, Green Gallery, New York, May 26-June 2, 1965.