ArtsConnectEd/ArtsNet Minnesota
What is Art?

Art and Artists
Africa, Zaire
England, Higham Manor, Suffolk
Donald Judd
New Mexico (Mimbres)
Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
Thailand (Blue Hmong)
Robert Rauschenberg

Inner Worlds Environment   Identity Designing Spaces and Places
Donald Judd
Discussion Questions/Activities

One of the common themes found in visual art throughout history and across cultures is the use of repetitive geometric shapes. Scholars suggest humans find a sense of security and order when viewing repetitive geometric shapes. What do you think?

Why do you think Donald Judd considers himself a painter but not a sculptor? Do you agree?

Shadows and different colors of blue are created by the work as the light changes while the viewer moves around the piece. Are these shadows part of the artwork?

Create a Minimalist work of art using Legos. Create five to 10 shapes that are all exactly alike. The shapes could be made from six to 20 Legos. Arrange your repeated shapes on the base. Think about exact placement. Create a repetitive design with the shapes. Think about light and shadows.

The aestheticians disagree about the answer to the question, "What is art?." Some say, "Art is art" if it is made by people; and it expresses ideas and feelings. Others believe "Everything is art," including a sunset or a tree. Still others believe that every culture should make its own definition of art. We will consider the class to be a "culture." After a discussion, the class will create a definition of art. Now, look at Donald Judd's work, Untitled, and write a paragraph explaining why you think the work is or is not art according to your definition.

Donald Judd was an art critic. Now you can become an art critic. Write a critical analysis of Judd's artwork Untitled. For your analysis, choose one perspective from the six below. Evaluating the work from one perspective, write three paragraphs. First, describe what you see. Next, interpret what you see. What does it mean? Finally, evaluate what you see. Is it good or bad art?

Perspectives for critical analysis:

  1. Design Elements and Principles. How does the artist utilize line, texture, balance, color, and technical skill?

  2. Presentation. Where and how is the work presented? Would your judgment be different if the blocks were found at the dump? In the grocery store?

  3. Historical or Cultural Connection. Are there visual connections to history? How does the artist reflects his time (politics, ethnic culture, environment or economic factors)?

  4. Conceptual Importance. Did the artist make you think about an idea or message?

  5. Artist's Purpose. Did the artist try to shock, inspire, create "beauty," or make you think? Was he successful?

  6. Audience Appropriate. What does your culture expect or tolerate? Will this art make people think or make them too angry to think?

Caption 3: This artwork was created by students researching and thinking about the importance of harvest and food production, ecological issues, homelessness, the elements and principles of design, and conceptual art. Using the art criticism model above, critique the artwork.


Atkins, R., Art spoke, New York: Abbeville Press, 1993.

Benzi, F., and E. Busmanti and A. Sbrilli The History of Art, New York: U.S. Gallery Books, 1989.

Brommer, G. F. (ed.). Discovering Art History. Worcester, Mass: Davis, 1988.

Fineberg, J., Art Since 1940. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995.

Judd, Donald, [exh. cat.] p. 7-13, Germany: Museum Wiesbaden, 1993.

Swartz, S. (ed.)Walker Art Center - Painting and Sculpture from the Collection, New York: Rizzoli Publications, and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1990.

Wilson, L. A. "Art and Social Structure," from Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas (pp. 107-110), by J. C. Berlo and L. A. Wilson (eds.), Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1993.

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Inner Worlds | What Is Art? | Environment | Designing Spaces and Places | Identity
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