Image: Gavin Morrison “Donald Judd in Iceland” Chinati Foundation, Marfa, volume 23, 2018.
Toward the beginning of the essay “Marfa, Texas” from 1985,1 Donald Judd writes:
I lived in Dallas for two years as a child and knew, as everyone did, that the West, which is the Southwest there, began beyond Fort Worth. The land was pretty empty, defined only by the names in the stories about Texas by J. Frank Dobie, as the names in the Icelandic sagas substitute in that country for the monuments that don't exist.
This finding, through vernacular literature, of equivalences between the emptinesses of Texas and Iceland prefigured Judd bringing work from that northern island to Marfa, namely, Richard Long's Sea Lava Circles (1988), made of smoothed rocks taken from the coastline of the Reykjanes Peninsula, and the installation by the Icelandic artist Ingólfur Arnarsson (1991-92) at the Chinati Foundation. Judd's connections with Iceland began with the sagas which he read from his youth and which provoked him to first travel there in the early 1980s, spurred by a wish to see the sites and places described in those stories of history and myth. His interests in Iceland were to develop more widely, and following an invitation to exhibit in Reykjavik in 1988, he became a regular visitor for the rest of his life. Indeed, things may have been different. His quest for expanse and distance that led him to the west Texan desert had also turned his view northward: 'Originally I thought of moving to Iceland... I was looking for empty land... But I felt I would probably have done all that I have done in Texas here [in Iceland], if I had been a little quicker.'