Donald Judd’s To Susan Buckwalter, SFMOMA, San Francisco, California

Berry Grass



Boxes like epochs, Donald, I keep trying to divide your biography into proportions clean & neat as the lines in your work. I keep trying to see Excelsior run through it all, the river of your life, as if a river is ever anything else than life.

You hadn’t thought to stack them yet, Donald. This was when you first hung boxes on the wall: four galvanized iron boxes placed six inches apart horizontally; a single blue beam, aluminum, laid on top of them like a rolled wave tumbling through the white space & the shine & the gleam and I know you distrusted allusion in art but this looks like a timeline. Chronology is the art of boxing in our lives, the art of narrative, and I could say plenty here about Didion & telling ourselves stories in order to live, but I’d rather think about being galvanized. You galvanize iron by layering over it a protective coating of zinc. When they thought I was a boy I was shiny, reflective. When they thought I was a boy I was a wilderness with a wrong map. And the whole time I thought when there’s drought in the river we still call it a river, so why don’t you see me as what I am? Each of us can hold at once that I was both me and not me, or that to galvanize is to craft a shell for saving but to galvanize is to spark a muscle to action, and it’s always both: the hiding and the coming out.

Nobody seems to know what year this piece is from. Most sources say 1964, but I’ve seen ’65 and even ’69 cited. Nobody seems to know what year I am from. I mean, what year are any queers from? When is the queer birth, the coming out or the coming into, when my partner first touched me or when I first touched her, the ancestral lineage of touch, years of yearning stitched back through time like she and I are yarn & have been this whole time, like we’re filigree. Or like a rolling blue spine but all they see is boxes. I’m trying to make a narrative again aren’t I but the fact of my body together with the fact of her body is making something else, something gently held, and you didn’t understand that disruption has an eros, Donald. You only touched what you wished kept away from others. And I know you distrusted allusion in art but your boxes have always been full of storage.