EXPOSED: Process, Couture, and Photography in Marfa, Texas

Presented at the 2013 Annual IFA - Frick Symposium on the History of Art


“Exposure” has at least three meanings: to reveal; to be left open to the elements; and the mechanical-chemical process of photography. Traversing these definitions, this paper compares colloquial understandings of labor and process in Minimalist works with interpretations of the same operating in the realms of high fashion and the art world. As an interpretive tool for describing multiple inhabitations of Marfa, Texas, “exposure” opens conversations around the unspoken labor congealed in Donald Judd’s Minimalist works, the misidentification of exposed processes by the haute couture design team Proenza Schouler, and the fashion industry’s appropriation of the Marfa landscape through film and photography, particularly in the works of Mario Sorrenti and Josie Miner. What is at stake for the legacy of Minimalism, and Donald Judd in particular, in this comparison? For present-day Marfans? From its inception in the 1960’s, why has Minimalism held enduring appeal for the fashion industry? How do different photographic interpretations of Marfa and the Far West Texas landscape trouble, comply with, or otherwise complicate understandings of the town from multiple aesthetic, cultural, and economic vectors? Through the trope of exposure, this paper attends to these questions, while building a connective thread through industrial labor, high fashion, and the medium of photography as they shape understandings of Minimalism. This presentation includes new research; interviews with metal shop workers in West Texas, archival materials from the Judd Foundation in Marfa and New York City, and images of Donald Judd prototypes never before shown in an art historical context.