When New York fashion brand Rag & Bone called and asked artist and filmmaker Rainer Judd if she wanted to create an artwork for the side of its Houston Street store, she jumped at the opportunity. It is a location just a few blocks from where she grew up with her father, Donald Judd, at 101 Spring Street. What better place to be given a wall to create some public art than her old stomping ground, where she and her girlfriends hung out as teenagers and referred to themselves as The EDKs (eccentric downtown kids). It made sense.
Rag & Bone has been quietly running its The Houston Wall Project since its store there opened in 2010, giving over the Elizabeth Street side wall (13 by 17 feet) to an artist for a month long period at a time. But this time, as Judd puts it, ‘there was a lot of bang for your buck.’ Judd’s company Archer Trooper & Co came up with a proposal that would see pages from Judd's journals turning on the wall. She has been an avid journal keeper since she was 11-years-old. Her pages are filled with drawings, collages and whimsical phrases – ‘sometimes I write things I want to say that maybe I don’t say,’ she explains.
Nine pages from her series of 34 books spanning three decades were selected, photographed, and enlarged into giant posters to be pasted in sequence onto the wall. ‘There was an organised randomness to the project,’ says Judd. 'It wasn't on a set schedule, because we had to wait for days when the weather was better.' Archer Trooper & Co captured the project in its entirety in a series of photographs, and a stop motion film (exclusively for Wallpaper* ) that shows the pages being installed and turning. Judd says she had never considered the graphic quality of her journals before the pages were scaled up – ‘I had never seen my books from that vantage point’ – but seeing them as wall murals ‘gave a whole new life to them.’
Her father’s long-standing assistant Jamie Dearing gave Judd her first journal. ‘It was a little red and black book that I took with me on a three or four month trip we made to Iceland, the UK and Holland – from where we drove all the way to Sicily,’ she says. ‘I remember my dad being excited when I drew buildings or other things that I saw and my journal-keeping continued from there.’ The next five or six books were ‘flowery and cushiony, cheesy diary types’ and it wasn’t until she was 16 that they started becoming ‘more of a sketch book, with collages and lots of thoughts.'
The early journals, she says, ‘are pretty boring – what I ate for breakfast, what homework I had.’ But she did have a star system that she would draw in each day to rate her dad, which is curious. ‘He got 2 stars, 3 stars… based on how much I loved him that day. I have no idea if he knew I was rating him or if he was aware of me even writing journals, but he used to give me blank books to fill,’ she says.
She gave her father blank books too. He never got round to filling his – ‘he wasn’t a journal keeper’ – and it is in many of those, which she retrieved when he died in 1994, that she has kept her journals. Other books have been given to her by friends and those are named after the people who gave them to her. For Judd, ‘journals are a place to dialogue with myself, a testing ground for ideas, a pal, a repository for the stuff of the highway of my heart. This project is a small window into a deep archive.’