Steel Study

A new book showcases Donald Judd’s use of Cor-ten steel

Art East

From the late 1980s until his death in 1994, artist Donald Judd used Cor-ten weathering steel in many sculptures. The 72 page Donald Judd: Cor-ten—from David Zwirner Books—features those works in detail. The book includes an interview with Judd conducted by Kunstbulletin editor-in-chief Claudia Jolles and an introduction by his son Flavin.

Donald Judd was commonly associated with minimalism, a term the artist personally rejected despite his important influence on the movement. His work in sculpture consisted mostly of simple, abstract shapes that emphasized the principles of color and space. Judd also designed furniture but considered his design practice to be distinctly separate from his art practice. In his writings, he explained that the practical intent of furniture design was philosophically incompatible with the artistic intent of his sculpture.

Installation view, Donald Judd, David Zwirner, New York, 2015. Art © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Installation view, Donald Judd, David Zwirner, New York, 2015. Art © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Donald Judd: Cor-ten is an exploration not only of the artist but also of the industrial material itself. Cor-ten is the popular name for weathering steel, which was originally developed for use in coal carrying train cars. When left outdoors and exposed to the elements, weathering steel develops a stable coating of rust that protects it from further corrosion and eliminates the need for paint. Ten pages of the book are dedicated to the process of making Cor-ten, accompanied full page close-up photographs that study its color and texture in great detail.


Artists such as Pablo Picasso have frequently used Cor-ten steel, which has a distinct reddish brown color, for outdoor sculptures. Recent prominent architectural uses include the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Bjarke Ingels’ Warehouse421 in Abu Dhabi. U.S. Steel, who owns the patent on Cor-ten, showcased the product during the construction of their U.S. Steel Tower in Pittsburgh.

Most of Judd’s works with Cor-ten steel were done for specific outdoor locations and commissioned by clients. This book collects photographs taken during an exhibition at David Zwirner’s New York gallery. It is currently available on the publisher’s web site.

(Courtesy David Zwirner Books)

(Courtesy David Zwirner Books)

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