Historical Journal

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Tom Judd: Hymn for a Landscape

January 20, 1984
Judith Stein

A writer and curator, studied at Barnard College, and has a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Eye of the Sixties, Richard Bellamy and the Transformation of Modern Art, (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016). Her curatorial projects include Red Grooms, A Retrospective, for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and The Figurative Fifties, New York School Figurative Expressionism, co-curated with Paul Schimmel. Her exhibition, I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin, traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1995, and earned a best catalogue award from AICA/USA. Her articles, interviews and reviews have appeared in Art in America, Art News, and The New York Times Book Review, as well as on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air and Morning Edition. Among her honors is a Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant; a Pew Fellowship for literary non-fiction; and a Lannan Foundation writing residency in Marfa, Texas.

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"The artist studied painting at the University of Utah but dropped out to travel in Europe for six months."

January 20 through February 29, 1984
Of Mere Being
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
-Wallace Stevens
Tom Judd’s Hymn for a Landscape is only partially about the land. Judd’s large scale oil paintings frequently combine images of exteriors and interiors, blending visions of the present with views of the past. In commenting on what he termed Judd’s “extraterrestrial sense of being,” critic Bernie Quigley has called attention to the artist’s boyhood experience in Utah, when the Great Salt Lake receded several miles, leaving wharves, docks, and dance halls stranded in a sea of sand.
Empty chairs, waiting drinks, beached boats, and outdated cars all figure prominently in the offbeat scenarios of Judd’s never-never landscapes of passe chic. Beneath the pink and blue skies in Evening’s Doorway, paired curtains billow out from the borders of a picture window, which frames not the land but a painting of it. A green shag rug in the room before it has the color and texture of grass. A floor lamp explodes light into the dusk-colored heavens as a gentleman exits to the right.
Judd was just a child or not yet born during the time periods evoked in his paintings. It is as if he has appropriated others’ memories, with no commitment to get it down straight. The palm tree at the left in Listening to a Dream is indeed “at the end of the mind, beyond the last thought,” in Wallace Stevens’ words. Judd’s work deepens in meaning when we allow ourselves to lose sight of “the reason” and focus instead on “the bird’s fire-fangled feathers.”

Judith Stein
Coordinator, Morris Gallery
1. Listening to a Dream, 1983
Oil on canvas , Triptych, each panel 36″ x 80″
2. A Little Bit of Midnight, 1983
Oil on canvas, 70″ x 85″
3. Thinking it Was Dawn, 1983
Oil on canvas, 96″ x 90″
4. Hymn for a Landscape, 1983
Oil on canvas, 90″ x 80″
5. Evening’s Doorway, 1983
Oil on canvas, 75″ x 82″
6. Town Square, 1983
Oil on canvas, 60″ x 72
7. Don’t Fence Me In, 1983
Cut-out paper, acrylic paint, pencil, pastel, on rag paper, 40″ x 60″
8. Stories of Nightfall, 1983
Pastel, pencil, spray paint on rag paper, 59″ x 43″
9. Since We’ve Come This Far, 1983
Pastel, pencil on paper, 30″ x 42″

Artist Biography
Judd’s biography reads like a novel. He has described his early life in the following way:
Jedediah M. Grant was my great-great-grandfather. He was the first mayor of Salt Lake City. He died when he was forty of exhaustion from his religious obsession. He left behind six wives (he was a polygamist) with six sons, all under the age of one. Heber J. Grant was born the day Jedediah died. He later became the president of the Mormon church in 1917. Heber had three wives, ten daughters, and no sons. My father was the oldest son of Heber’s daughter Mary. During his mission for the Mormon church to New York City in 1936, my father discovered that, in his words, “I didn’t believe the Joseph Smith story. More important, I discovered the world of ideas, the arts, words, libraries, museums, and people, people, people.”
My father and mother met in Panama during the war. She was a stewardess, he a captain in the Army Air Corps. After the war they were married and moved to Mt. Pleasant, a small desert town in southern Utah. There they owned and published the town newspaper, The Mt. Pleasant Pyramid. They lived over the drugstore where my brother and sister were born. Unfortunately they could not make a living off the Pyramid. The family moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where my father took a more lucrative job in advertising. I was born two years later in Trenton in 1952. The family moved back to Salt Lake City in 1954.
The artist studied painting at the University of Utah but dropped out to travel in Europe for six months. A chance meeting with Rafael Ferrer in1972 spurred Judd to come to Philadelphia where he enrolled at the Philadelphia College of Art, from which he graduated in 1975.

Solo Exhibitions
The Story of Egypt and Utah, The Eric Makler Gallery, Philadelphia, 1980
Tom Judd, Paintings and Drawings, Salt Lake City Art Center, Salt Lake City, UT, 1981
Tom Judd, New Work, The Eric Makler Gallery, Philadelphia, 1982

Group Exhibitions
Phillips Gallery, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1977
Cheltenham Art Center, Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, 1978
Unique Beginnings, The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, 1979.
Tom Judd and Marilyn Holsing, The Eric Makler Gallery, Philadelphia, 1979
Contemporary Drawing, Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1979
Invitational: New York, Monique Knowlton Gallery, New York, 1981

The Philadelphia Museum of Art
William Hollman, New York
Prudential Insurance Company, New York
Diane Dunning and Associates, Philadelphia and New York

Jarmusch, Ann. “If Vermeer were alive today would he be painting in Philadelphia?,” Art News, March 1981, p. 157.
Katz, Jonathan G. “Making art from enigma,” The Bulletin, September 14, 1980, p. 8.
McFadden, Sarah. “Report from Philadelphia,” Art in America, May-June 1979, p. 29 and p. 31.
Quigley, Bernie. “Tom Judd,” catalogue essay, Unique Beginnings, The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Library Gallery, 1979.
Stein, Judith. “Portrait of Philadelphia,” Portfolio, Nov.-Dec. 1980, p. 104.
The Morris Gallery displays the work of outstanding contemporary artists with a connection to Philadelphia, determined by birth, schooling or residence. The exhibitions are chosen by a committee composed of area artists, museum personnel and collectors, and the curatorial staff of the Academy. Currently serving on the Morris Gallery Exhibition Committee are: Ofelia Garcia, Anne d’Harnoncourt, Jennie Q. Dietrich, Harold Jacobs, Janet Kardon, Jay Richardson Massey, Charles Mather III, John Moore, Jody Pinto, Mark Rosenthal, Acey Wolgin; and Academy staff Frank Goodyear, Kathy Foster, Linda Bantel, Betty Romanella and Judith Stein, Morris Gallery coordinator.
Copyright, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1983
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