Marfa, Marfa: Minimalism, rasquachismo, and Questioning 'Decolonial Aesthetics' in Far West Texas
This dissertation focuses on Marfa, Texas. Within art history, Marfa is understood as the most developed example of Donald Judd’s standards for permanent installation of works. He moved there in 1972, and developed multiple sites in and around town as demonstrations of his “platinum-iridium standard” for how art should be displayed. Catalyzed by Judd’s presence, galleries, arts foundations, festivals, and independent studio practices have established themselves there.
Marfa was established in the late 1800s as a railroad stop. Ranchers in the surrounding area used Marfa as a central location for sending cattle to market, socializing, and picking up supplies. The laborers who supported this industry and provided services in town are mostly of Mexican descent. Marfa was also a base in the off-season for many families who made a living as farmworkers, traveling west to California as the seasons dictated.
The overarching project of this dissertation can be framed by the aesthetic practices of these two groups. The names for these practices are Minimalism and rasquachismo. The former is rejected by those it names, and the latter is rarely named or considered as an object of contemplation in itself, but rather as a daily mode of living. Both are names devised by critics and intellectuals.
Rather than stage a confrontation or attempt a translation, this dissertation reads the situation through a “decolonial aesthetic” lens. What comprises decolonial aesthetics is a relatively new and open question for the collective project Modernity / Coloniality / Decoloniality (MCD). This project is my contribution through a highly localized, specific consideration with implications for Chicano / a Studies and postwar art history.