March 31, 2021 513 PM
To the Editor:
We, the undersigned, write to express our disapproval of the termination of Rob Weiner’s contract with the Chinati Foundation. His dismissal came as the result of a breakdown in relations with the directorship over several years, during which time Rob’s responsibilities were significantly curtailed. No genuine efforts have been made to reestablish a collaborative and respectful working relationship with him, and a few days ago the board resolved not to renew Rob’s contract.
While change is inevitable at any organization, Rob’s termination is part of a larger pattern of waywardness that has marked Chinati’s current leadership. This act makes clear that the group is out of touch with the organization’s founding mission and is willing to disregard a sound and integrated generational transition for the institution. Rob is, among many other things, a key resource for Chinati. A wise leader would have considered him an asset. This misguided decision is a dereliction of the responsibilities entrusted to the director and to every member of the board of trustees.
The singularity of Donald Judd’s vision for Chinati was revolutionary at the time the foundation was established and is even more relevant today. It includes a unique combination of considerations: place, nature, history, architecture, art, music, writing, craft, culture, community, language and the act of gathering together. Chinati was founded by an artist, and this fact is also deeply significant. Indeed, the very structure of the institution reveals something about how artists think and work, how ideas and disciplines are interrelated, and how art lives in the world. From the beginning, Judd made it clear that Chinati was not the province of art bureaucrats and its success would not be measured by money or the number of annual visitors. Above all, Judd was guided by the power of art to open people’s eyes to the world around them. Under its current leadership, Chinati has strayed from these values, capitulating to the very mercenary impulses Judd repudiated.
Rob came to Marfa as Donald Judd’s assistant 32 years ago and stayed on after Judd’s death in 1994, to preserve Judd’s vision, even while the institution was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and was unable to pay his salary. During his tenure, Rob has embodied Judd’s concept for Chinati and his tireless work on behalf of the museum helped establish an international community of artists and art lovers around it. To terminate Rob after decades of devoted service is unconscionable. But dismissing him does far more than disrespect his enormous contributions; it reveals a lack of foresight for the institution itself and betrays a failure to comprehend that Rob’s knowledge and experience are an irreplaceable and valuable resource.
For each of us in our own way, Chinati changed our lives. Now Chinati itself is changing, and we write to voice our profound alarm and concern. The current custodians of Chinati must understand that the course they are charting is wrong. The standards Judd set for his foundation are clear. Merely invoking them is no substitute for living up to them.
Rita Ackermann, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Jean-Baptiste Bernadet, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Rosa Barba, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
John Beech, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Larry Bell, Artist, Annual Exhibition Participant at the Chinati Foundation
Miles Bellamy, Editor and Bookseller
Steffen Boeddeker, Former Public Affairs Associate at the Chinati Foundation
Adam Bork, Artist and Marfa Resident
Carolyn Pfeiffer Bradshaw, Film Producer and Marfa Resident
Kim Brandt, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Joseph Cashiola, Filmmaker and Marfa Resident
Ross Cashiola, Artist and Marfa Resident
Matt Connors, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Lynne Cooke, Curator and Art Historian
Brenda Danilowitz, Chief Curator, The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation
Rupert Deese, Former Assistant to Donald Judd and Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Anthony DeSimone, Artist and Marfa Resident
Rackstraw Downes, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Deborah Eisenberg, Writer and Chinati Foundation Program Participant
Jeff Elrod, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation and Marfa Resident
Francesca Esmay, Former Conservator at the Chinati Foundation
David Fenster, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Mark Flood, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Maureen Gallace, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
J.D. Garcia, Artist and Marfa Resident
Rochelle Goldberg, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Joanne Greebaum, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Magalie Guérin, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Christopher C. Hill, Collector
Darby Rose Hillman, Artist and Marfa Resident
David Hollander, Co-director of CineMarfa and Former Marfa Resident
Florian Holzherr, Former Photographer for the Chinati Foundation
Roni Horn, Artist, Included in the Permanent Collection of the Chinati Foundation
Katherine Hubbard, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Fredericka Hunter, Ex-member of the Chinati Foundation Board of Trustees
Robert Irwin, Artist, Included in the Permanent Collection of the Chinati Foundation
Jeff Jamieson, Judd Furniture Fabricator
Dolores Johnson, Former Consultant to the Chinati Foundation
Tim Johnson, Editor and Marfa Resident
Sharon Johnston, Architect and Chinati Foundation Program Participant
Emilia Kabakov, Artist, Included in the Permanent Collection of the Chinati Foundation
Ilya Kabakov, Artist, Included in the Permanent Collection of the Chinati Foundation
Vance Knowles, Former Music Director Ballroom Marfa and Marfa Resident
Jeff Kopie, Former Administrator at the Chinati Foundation
Alex Kwartler, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Jennifer Lane, Co-director of CineMarfa and Former Marfa Resident
Mark Lee, Architect and Chinati Foundation Program Participant
Zoe Leonard, Artist, Annual Exhibition Participant at the Chinati Foundation, Marfa Resident
Ian Lewis, Marfa Resident
Emily Liebert, Former Coordinator for Education and Public Affairs at Chinati Foundation
Susannah Lipsey, Artist and Marfa Resident
Alex Marks, Artist and Marfa Resident
Richard Maxwell, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Britt Mazurek, Artist and Marfa Resident
Rob Mazurek, Artist, Chinati Foundation Program Participant, Marfa Resident
Michael Meredith, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Lachlan J. Miles, Former Development Consultant for the Chinati Foundation
Rachel Monroe, Journalist and Marfa Resident
Pedja Muzijevic, Artistic Administrator of the Baryshnikov Arts Center
Eileen Myles, Former Lannan Foundation Resident and Marfa Resident
Kate Newby, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Riley O’Bryan, Artist and Marfa Resident
Suzan-Lori Parks, Writer and Chinati Foundation Program Participant
Ester Partegas, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation and Marfa Resident
Jack Pierson, Artist and Chinati Foundation Program Participant
Happy Price, Artist
Daniel Rios Rodriguez, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Jennifer Rosenblit, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Wallace Shawn, Writer and Chinati Foundation Program Participant
Erin Shirreff, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Kate Shepherd, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Amy Sillman, Artist and Chinati Foundation Program Participant
Karen Stein, Ex-member of the Chinati Foundation Board of Trustees
Marianne Stockebrand, Director Emeritus of the Chinati Foundation
Ryan Sullivan, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Ricky Swallow, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Dedie Taylor, Fort Davis Resident
Lynne Tillmann, Writer and Chinati Foundation Program Participant
Jason Tomme, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
David Tompkins, Former Writer and Editor at the Chinati Foundation
Daniel Turner, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Hester van Royen, Former Representative for Judd Furniture in Europe and Marfa Resident
Lesley Vance, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Tory Vazquez, Artist, Chinati Foundation Program Participant
Charline von Heyl, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation and Marfa Resident
Nicola von Velsen, Former consulting editor to the Chinati Foundation
Catherine Walsh, Ex-member of the Chinati Foundation Board of Trustees
Michael Williams, Former Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation
Christopher Wool, Artist, Ex-member of the Chinati Foundation Board of Trustees, and Marfa Resident
To the Editor:
The Board of Trustees recognizes the importance and value of Rob Weiner’s central role in the history and development of The Chinati Foundation. In recognition of and appreciation for his passion and engagement over more than 30 years, we as a board took the extraordinary step of not accepting his resignation four years ago. We worked with him instead to design a structure that we hoped would be mutually beneficial, allowing us to work together toward our shared goal of continuing our stewardship of what Donald Judd created in Chinati with respect for Rob’s unique experience, creativity and intelligence. Despite our best efforts, we were not able to find a path that worked for Rob and Chinati. And so the board made the difficult but unanimous decision to advise Rob that we intend to end our consulting arrangement. Rob will always be part of Chinati’s history, and we remain hopeful that we can find a more effective way to work together in the future for the benefit of Chinati and in support of current leadership and staff.
The Chinati Foundation Board of Trustees
I wanted to put in my two cents on Chinati’s firing of Rob Weiner. Here goes. If there’s no room for Rob in present day Chinati, think what that means. He brought a long history, and that’s something that always feels different. Rob’s way, socially, sort of extended into the future and horizontally. Meaning there would always be more interesting people coming to town through the residencies that he would welcome to holiday dinners at the long table in his home and people from the Lannan residencies (me) came too, and Rob’s play readings pull all parts of the community together so that there was a place people knew each other through and it was town and its institutions but it was and is this guy who greased it, who seemed to think that art institutions necessarily make living a big part of their focus and how we move together locally as we come and go. To end Rob’s relationship with Chinati so harshly and abruptly tries to suggest what is true isn’t, that what worked and that feeling among friends and artists who live in Marfa that they had hit upon something rare here isn’t an important thing. Then what is. It’s a total crash in values, because for me knowing Rob has been synonymous with the experience of a place constantly unfolding and in retrospect that was and is a feature of how Rob Weiner loves and works and you can’t tell me that is something dispensable without really changing who and what you – a person or an institution is.
So, that’s that.
Marfa and New York, New York
I was the artist in residence in November/December 2019, and working in Marfa was a profound experience for me. Rob Weiner’s support, which manifested in countless ways, made my time there truly meaningful. I am confident that without his work (and also that of David Tompkins, who I understand is also no longer with Chinati), my residency and open studio performance would not have given me all they did, and the many relationships he facilitated may not have thrived and endured. These skills and assets probably don’t translate on a resume or have resonance on LinkedIn, but I know when I work with an institution that the staff member who has Rob’s knowledge and care and curiosity and creativity is the person who will make my relationship with the institution worthwhile. Rob knows how to support artists, and if Chinati changed my life it’s because of him.
Brooklyn, New York
It’s with great sadness that I learned of Rob Weiner’s firing from Chinati last Friday. Instead of the story arc of the movie “My Dinner With Andre,” where Wally Shawn is taught to see the world around him anew over one evening, I had the great fortune to experience “32 Years of Learning How to See With Rob.” All of the artists who worked with Rob know from his shows, publications and symposia that he fought to make your work look its best. With Rob’s dismissal, all artists have suffered a loss.
In trying to sort out my feelings about Rob’s firing, I realized that I needed to run out and get a pack of Parliaments (Rob’s brand), and so I did. Opening the pack and lighting one like a piece of incense, I placed the cigarette on the edge of an ashtray and inhaled the smoke, second-hand style. How many good decisions were made with that odor in the air? And when our conversations turned heated, another cigarette would be lit. Could our talks be gritty and abrasive? Of course, but If we can’t have big, wide-ranging, opinionated conversations in the hopes of trying to ferret out lousy decisions and protect the good ones, what’s the point? Thank you Rob for your exacting rigor and diligence and hoping for more to come.
San Luis Obispo, California
Jeff Jamieson worked with Donald Judd as an assistant from 1989-1994. He has made Donald Judd’s furniture since 1990 and continues to manufacture it. He has worked with Robert Irwin as an assistant since 2004 and was the lead installer of “Dawn to Dusk” at Chinati in 2016. He has owned a home in Marfa since 2007.
To add a word to what others have said: We wonder if the Chinati Board of Directors realizes the extent to which Rob Weiner’s devotion to Chinati and the values it has represented have brought it to the attention of the wider world. Since Rob first showed each of us around, we have described what we saw and felt to countless individuals not just in New York, where we live, but in Los Angeles, London and anywhere we went. We have encouraged those people to visit, and they have encouraged others. And through his amazing theatre projects and his enthusiasm for literature and other forms of creative expression, Rob has connected visiting artists from many fields, including those brought to Marfa by the Lannan Foundation, with the Chinati Foundation. And this is part and parcel of a wider project: he has worked on a daily basis to draw the town of Marfa and Chinati closer and closer together, so that the adventurous, contemplative, uncompromised spirits of Judd and of Art have suffused the entire community. As a musician friend of ours said to us in amazement, “The whole town is art!”
New York, New York
To: Chinati Board of Directors
I am writing in response to Chinati’s firing of Rob Weiner. I feel compelled to write this letter as an artist and lover of Chinati the foundation and a part-time resident of Marfa the town; I wouldn’t hardly know the pleasures of either were it not for Rob.
For decades, Rob, in his role of associate director of Chinati, has taken it upon himself to extend this position to that of ambassador, facilitating countless introductions of artist to Chinati and Marfa to artist. All parties are indebted to this facilitation and championing. I think I speak for many to go further in saying that there is an inexorable tie between Chinati/Marfa and Rob Weiner.
The board of directors at Chinati has made the decision to terminate his employment there. I am shocked at the shortsightedness of this decision.
We are living in an age where comfort and ease seem to be the goal. Given what people are going through, this is understandable. But I can’t see how it leads to great work. I have heard whispered talk of Rob being difficult to work with. As an artist I have worked with Rob, and I suppose I have experienced this. Yes, it’s not always easy to work with Rob, but I always know where Rob stands. It may not always be pleasant, but I understand the reason for the difficulty: he cares. His care and passion and his informed position make me reevaluate what I think or feel. In short, the clash makes me better, all of us better, because it hones the articulation of feelings.
It would take volumes to cite all that Rob has done for Chinati. I will leave this to the Judd experts and art historians. I can only say that in the wake of your decision to let him go, the word “boycott” comes to mind. I do not intend to use this word for dramatic effect, but a mere statement of fact. Practically speaking, if Chinati insists on a future without Rob, I simply will not go there. I don’t think I am alone. For the sake of the foundation and the town, it is my sincere hope that the board of directors will come to its senses and reverse their decision, restoring Rob Weiner at Chinati in his full capacity.
Richard Maxwell, former Artist in Residence
New York City / Marfa
This is in response to your article in last week’s paper about a local medical facility charging for COVID-19 vaccines. This is more of an explanation or a peek behind the curtain of vaccine delivery.
Most of us have heard about, read about, or even received a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines are distributed to local health care providers from hub organizations like Midland Memorial Hospital who supplied our region so generously with the Pfizer vaccine, or the Texas State Health Department which provided the Moderna vaccine to our area. These vaccines are free to the healthcare facilities and to vaccine recipients. Healthcare providers are tasked with organizing vaccine events, coordinating appointments and enlisting participants, as well as vaccine reporting to the state registries after allocating time to administer injections. Clinics are generally paid by most insurance plans $14 for the first injection and $28 for the second injection. In short, medical facilities lose money giving the vaccine. Chalk that up to serving humanity in the face of a global pandemic.
Some organizations have found ways to exploit the pandemic for profit. Medical suppliers who, in many cases have raised their prices during the COVID-19 outbreak for supplies, like gloves for example, which are priced at 300% above their pre-pandemic pricing, are profiting and exploiting an opportunity during a pandemic. The Marfa Clinic has been under the impression that billing the insurance company for the injection fees is covered, and not expensed to vaccination recipients. Uninsured or cash-pay clients are not charged any fee for vaccination. Our clinic has discovered that some of our commercial insurers expect our clinic to collect the injection fees from their members who have not met the deductible on their insurance plan in lieu of paying us the injection fee. The Marfa Clinic waives this fee when we become aware of this practice. It is my understanding that insurers are being reimbursed to vaccinate their members.
In this confusing payor mix, it is not hard to imagine that medical facilities feel the need to charge for uncompensated care. Public health programming during a pandemic requires an equal affordable safety net for us all. We all need to remember we are basically a year into this outbreak, we are still figuring it out as we go along.