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Rainer and Flavin Judd

The daughter and son of artist Donald Judd reminisce about growing up with their artist father between New York City and Marfa, Texas

Julie Finch, Flavin Judd, and Ranier Judd, 5th Floor, 101 Spring Street, New York, NY. Photo by Donald Judd ©️ Judd Foundation Archive.

What was your childhood home in SoHo like?

Rainer Judd: High ceilings, natural light. Hot in the summer. Cold in the winter. Open air feeling, a bit exposed to the elements. A little like living in a castle as it related to heating challenges.

Flavin Judd: Well I thought it was normal and full of nice people. The problem is that growing up in SoHo in the ‘70s made the rest of the world rather bland. Home was a mix of space and people and now both are mostly gone.

Julie Finch, Flavin Judd, and Ranier Judd, 5th Floor, 101 Spring Street, New York, NY. Photo by Donald Judd ©️ Judd Foundation Archive.

What are your most vivid recollections of that time in your life?

Rainer Judd: My earliest memory is being held by my mother on the corner of Spring and Mercer as we waved goodbye to Don, my brother Flavin, and Jamie Dearing as they headed off to Marfa in a big truck. I remember that my pre-school was through a trap door in the sidewalk, below the restaurant FOOD, which was was started by Gordon Matta-Clark and his friends.

Flavin Judd: The smell of cigars, ducking under the loading docks on the way to school, the smell of Scotch and machine oil, laughter echoing through empty streets from open loft windows.

How did that differ from living in Marfa as a kid? Did you have a preference for either?

Rainer Judd: Marfa could not have been more different, but one thing in common was a feeling of being a pioneer. They were both village-size with few stores, one post office, diverse people with different cultural backgrounds. Marfa was more segregated than SoHo was. But both had a slightly abandoned, transitional quality. Marfa in its heyday, the 1940s, had twice the population. SoHo was light industry by day and a handful of artists and Italian-American immigrants by night. We were on the edge of Little Italy, so we didn’t get the full liveliness of that community. My preference for place had to do with my parents, love, and friends. Transitioning from one place to another involved goodbyes to one of them, friends and a pet. The landscape in Marfa eventually became a core part of my relationship with nature. The expanse of the night sky was and still is otherworldly. The fishbowl quality of the sky over hundred mile vistas became a teacher of sorts, giving me the simultaneous feeling of being both little and independent all at the same time. The independent spirit of West Texans was contagious but not entirely new as artists in SoHo had a similar maverick chutzpah.

Flavin Judd: I loved them both and they couldn’t have been more different. In Marfa our friends were cowboys and Border Patrol agents, and the few artists and art world people were only there because they made the long trek down. I went from a Waldorf-inspired schoolroom of chaos to a linoleum-lined rigidity of desks at school and weekends of camping in the desert. They had little in common but complemented each other perfectly.

Where have you lived besides New York as an adult? Or are you a diehard New Yorker? Which place resonates most with you?

Rainer Judd: I’m a die-hard downtown New Yorker as well as a die-hard West Texan. West Texans are as different from Texans as Downtowners are from Uptowners.

Flavin Judd: I currently live in Los Angeles with my wife, Michèle and our three kids. We’ve also lived in France and Texas, and New York is more or less just the office now. There are too many shoe stores for full-time living, and it’s too expensive.

How does your present home reference the influence of your early home life? Do you keep a lot of mementoes, and have you inherited heirlooms? Are there habits that you can trace to how you grew up?

Rainer Judd: It took me a long time to realize that the house I have upstate has a central stair, as does the two-story house at The Block where Flavin and I lived with Don. It’s a small house that I have, similar in scale to the original Lujan house that our parents rented early on in Marfa. I live with a lot of handy and beautiful tools and furniture from my Dad and his parents. A wooden top made by my grandpa, his planer, their milking stools, my great-great grandparents’ rocking chair, and Swedish furniture from my Dad. I like a plain cutting board and Wusthof knives, like my parents. I like to cook. I like cast-iron skillets, Le Creuset, a good gas stove, and big worn wood tables. I have some pieces of skylight glass from 101 Spring Street, doorstops from my grandparents. I don’t seem to tire of good basics.

Flavin Judd: When we designed our house, we wound up with something that looks like a New York loft with Texas light, Mexican colors, and French fragrances wafting over all. It’s hard to get rid of good architecture if you’ve grown up with it; you are spoiled for life. Now our kids are too!

For Home Sweet Home, Curbed talked to 30 engaging personalities across a range of industries to learn about where they grew up and what home means to them. Visit Judd Foundation at 101 Spring Street in New York, and in Marfa, Texas, and follow the organization on Instagram.

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