Equality in peace: Judd Foundation’s installation for civic engagement

“Igualdad en Paz” by José Parlá, 2020. Photo courtesy of the artist

MARFA — In its first of three partnered projects with For Freedoms, Judd Foundation is exhibiting two works, one in Marfa and one in New York, through October. In Marfa, a poster in the foundation’s window front by José Parlá reads “Igualdad en paz,” Spanish for equality in peace.

“We really identified with the values of For Freedoms in terms of the importance of encouraging civic engagement,” said Caitlin Murray, the foundation’s director of archives & programs. For Freedoms is an artist-founded organization that began in 2016 with a mission to provide a platform for creative civic engagement, discourse and direct action.

In 1970, Judd was prompted by the publication Art Forum to write about “The Artist and Politics.” In his essay he wrote, “I think that everyone has to be involved in politics, in organizations that will defend their rights and obtain more, that will decide on what should happen in all public matters. If you don’t act, someone will decide everything.”

That last sentence will be a part of another partnership between Judd Foundation and For Freedoms, where the quote will be installed on a billboard leading up to and through the November election.

And along with the installations in New York and Marfa, the foundation is thinking about how contemporary artists are engaging with that question, prompting them to host a talk with Parlá and Carlos Motta (whose poster is installed at Spring Street) about the artist and politics today.

Parlá was born into being political, with parents who left Cuba “due to the political division that happened there,” he said. As a young person, he was introduced to underground hip hop culture, which he said gave a voice to people who were not part of the mainstream. “Hip hop was born out of the ashes of the South Bronx after it had been through decades of fires and those were due to redlining, politics, insurance scams. As an artist, the things I came from and was born out of were highly politicized situations.”

The piece installed in Marfa by Parlá was reworked from a billboard made in 2018, and shows off the layering and texture added. In reworking the piece, he added what he imagined were desert tones, and sanded, layered, added washes and resized the work to fill the entire window, to “make something site specific,” he said.

Recently, Judd Foundation has partnered with a local organization, Marfa Steps Up, to encourage Marfa residents to complete the census. The foundation has also historically engaged in subjects that aligned with Donald Judd’s values, like land conservation and preserving the dark skies.

Murray said, “This is a part of Judd’s legacy that’s lesser known, but very important, and in the archive here in Marfa, Donald Judd’s papers really speak to a lifelong commitment to political action, not just through writing but also through direct action.”

The foundation is striving to raise civic engagement, be that through voter awareness and participation, census participation, or through “providing outlets for artists to install their work, that has expressly political, though not partisan, messages,” said Murray.