As the newest member of the DMA’s curatorial team, I thought I would take the opportunity to introduce myself to the online community. I am from Los Angeles and have been actively engaged with contemporary art in one way or another for the past ten years. While in Los Angeles, I worked as the director of Blum & Poe gallery and then as a Curatorial Assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Most recently, I’ve been working on my Ph.D. in art history at UCLA, and for the past year I was a Japan Foundation Doctoral Fellow, researching at the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. As the new Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, I will be in charge of the ongoing Concentrations series, which organizes exhibitions of work by emerging and under-represented artists.
Being new to Texas, I thought a cross-country drive would be a great way to familiarize myself with my new surroundings. On our way from Los Angeles to Dallas, my wife and I decided to make a pilgrimage to the city of Marfa in West Texas, which the minimalist artist Donald Judd called home. As many of you know, the city houses both the Judd Foundation, which oversees the artist’s private estate, as well as the Chinati Foundation, which Judd founded as a contemporary art museum that presents large-scale, permanent public art installations by Judd and by artists Judd selected, including Carl Andrea, John Chamberlin, Dan Flavin, Roni Horn, Ilya Kabakov, and John Wesley, among others. For me, a highlight of our visit was the rare glimpse into Judd’s private life. Seeing his neatly organized studio spaces used for contemplation and his winter bedroom adorned with his collection of Native American jewelry and pottery was a treat. In addition, walking through Donald Judd’s untitled works in mill aluminum (1982-1986) was a transformative experience. Installed in two former artillery sheds, which Judd adapted specifically to house this installation, the work consists of one hundred unique sculptural iterations that utilize the same outer dimension of 41 x 51 x 72 inches. Natural light floods the two sprawling exhibition halls and reflects off the metallic volumes in a way that continues to change as you walk through the space.
The road to Marfa (and ultimately Dallas) took us through Phoenix, El Paso, Midland, and Abilene. On the way, we stopped by Elmgreen and Dragset’s roadside installation titled Prada Marfa (2005), which feels as if it dropped out of the sky. Literally in the middle of nowhere, with miles and miles of open road to either side, the installation mimics the Italian fashion brand’s posh boutiques but is in fact a nonfunctional storefront. At first we almost missed it and drove right past it, but then I quickly turned around so we could grab a shot of this mirage-like space on the highway. If you ever find yourself on I-90, stop by and check it out.
All-in-all it was a fun road trip and a great way to see the Texas countryside. We also enjoyed some great Tex Mex cuisine and even caught a concert at the local bar in Marfa. Now that I am settled in at the DMA, this will hopefully be the first of many blog posts focusing on contemporary art. I look forward to your comments, and I hope to meet you during your next visit to the Museum.
Gabriel Ritter is The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art.