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MAK to Continue Exhibition Series Shown at Josef Hoffmann Museum, Brtnice
Donald Judd: „Ohne Titel“ Untitled, 1989. Wandobjekt Wall Object. Aluminium lackiert Lacquered aluminum. Donald Judd: „Bez názvu“, 1989. Nástěnný objekt. Lakovaný hliník © MAK/Georg Mayer.

VIENNA.- Under the title of “JOSEF HOFFMANN – DONALD JUDD: Hypothesis”, the MAK presents another special exhibition at the Josef Hoffmann Museum, Brtnice. The work of the outstanding American artist Donald Judd (1928–1994) is juxtaposed with that of the Austrian architect and designer Josef Hoffmann (1870–1956) in this show which features furniture, design drawings, and photographs. What Judd, one of the most important American artists of the 20th century, Josef Hoffmann, co-founder of the Wiener Werkstätte, have in common is consistent formal reduction in design, a “play” with volume and surface.

In the “specific objects”, which he started creating in 1968, Donald Judd, born 1928 in Missouri, USA, sought to overcome flat painterly representationalism and to redefine space and architecture in terms of three-dimensional objects. Although his works do not follow the laws and conventions of architecture in any strict sense, they are nevertheless indebted to architecture. A modernist in spirit, Judd tried to reduce the object to its original pristine form, its framework, in his designs. Following the idea of formal reductionism, he created strictly geometrical furniture and objects that rearrange, but also question, space.

Obvious parallels between the positions of both artists can be drawn at the practical, formal, and theoretical level. So, for example, the radical reductionism of Josef Hoffmann’s early furniture designs (“slat style”, “simple furniture”) is in line with Donald Judd’s structurally oriented approach. Another little known aspect of Judd’s work can be seen in his architectural designs, including his concept for the former military fort near Marfa, Texas, which he acquired in parcels starting in 1971, systematically converting the premises into one of the largest contemporary art ensembles worldwide.

Both artists also have a specific approach: Hoffmann and Judd both strive to achieve freedom of style in design. Hence their graphic-art work is charac-terized by strictly geometrical forms and consciously reduced designs. Moreover, coloring and purity of color play an important role in the artistic process. At the theoretical level, one could parallel two programmatic texts by the two designers that show astounding convergences: Josef Hoffmann’s “Simple Furniture. Designs and Accompanying Remarks by Professor Josef Hoff-mann”, published 1901 in the art magazine Das Interieur and written at the beginning of the modernist epoch, and Donald Judd’s “It’s hard to find a good lamp”, published 1993, when Modernism was coming to its end; both advocate that material use and shape forming be informed by simplicity. Judd who referred to Modernism throughout his lifetime carries on Hoffmann’s thought-work in his own text.

The idea of a holistic design for living which incorporates art and architecture in all spheres of life becomes manifest in the oeuvres of Hoffmann and Judd. Also, both artists have a close affiliation with the MAK. Josef Hoffmann, who, from 1899, taught at the Arts and Crafts School which developed as a spin-off from the “Imperial and Royal Museum of Art and Industry” and who was a co-founder of the Wiener Werkstätte – whose archives are preserved by the MAK today, which means that it has the largest holdings of furniture, objects, and designs by Josef Hoffmann worldwide – worked for the MAK as a curator well into the 1930s. In parallel to the MAK exhibitions dedicated to Josef Hoffmann since 1987, the entire holdings of original drawings by Hoffmann (5,600 items) from the Wiener Werkstätte Archives were made accessible to researchers on the Internet at the end of 2007 (

Donald Judd, to whom the MAK dedicated a solo exhibition entitled “Architecture” in 1991, also did the redesigning of MAK Permanent Baroque Collection in the course of the re-arrangement of the entire collections in 1991. 1994/95, the MAK exhibited Donald Judd’s work of prints and graphic art.

The installation “Stage Set”, which Judd designed on the occasion of the 1991, was put up in 1996 in Vienna’s Stadtpark as a MAK art project in the public realm.

Since 2006, Josef Hoffmann’s birthplace in Brtnice has been operated under the name of Josef Hoffmann Museum as a joint outpost of the Moravská galerie, Brno, and the MAK, Vienna. Already in 1992, the MAK was present at Hoffmann’s birthplace with an exhibition entitled “Hoffmann the Baroquist” which went back to the roots of his work as an architect and designer. With the shows “JOSEF HOFFMANN. A Continuous Process” (2005), “JOSEF HOFFMANN – CARLO SCARPA. On the Sublime in Architecture” (2006) und “JOSEF HOFFMANN – ADOLF LOOS. Ornament and Tradition” (2007), the MAK took up this cooperation again after the thorough refurbishment of the building. And the MAK will continue to present a series of Hoffmann-related exhibitions highlighting different aspects in the life and of work of this pioneering architect.

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