Judd’s series of Stacks are amongst the most iconic works he produced throughout his career, instantly recognisable and perfectly encapsulating his key creative ideals. Existing in an array of different materials and colours, the Stacks undeniably dominate the space around them, exuding a sense of quiet strength and authority. The inherent precision of the works was carefully regimented by the artist, ensuring that the sizes and spacings have remained constant at either 6 x 27 x 24 inches or 9 x 40 x 31 inches per individual unit, of which there are at least ten per Stack. The earliest Stacks were created in 1965 out of galvanised iron, followed shortly afterwards by extensive variations of material including copper, stainless steel, aluminium and brass. Judd’s discovery of Plexiglas, with its vast range of strongly saturated colours, encouraged the production of further Stacks in a range of gloriously vibrant hues. Dietmar Elger records the importance of the discovery of Plexiglas and its impact on Judd’s output: “Plexiglas…would open up a whole range of new possibilities. Almost more than any other material, Plexiglas lived up to Judd’s stipulation that material and colour should form a single entity, for colour is truly inherent in Plexiglass. It is available in an almost endless variety of factory-made colours, and can, in addition, be opaque or transparent, dull, intensely glowing or even fluorescent.” (Dietmar Elger in: Ibid., p. 21). This extraordinary variety seems to have acted as a crucial artistic spur for Judd, and he was to remain loyal to the material for the remainder of his career, glorifying in the endless possibilities offered by the potential of the medium.
Untitled (Bernstein 90-01), dating from 1990, is one of the most visually arresting Stacks ever produced by Judd during the latter part of his life. Composed of black anodised aluminium and clear Plexiglas, Untitled (Bernstein 90-01) magnificently epitomises Judd’s major creative concerns, brilliantly utilising two of his preferred mediums. The deep, velvety black of the aluminium edges imbues the translucent Plexiglas with a curiously luminous light, ensuring that the individual components of the Stacks seem to glow from within. The shadows cast on the wall hover delicately through a reflected prism, forming an elegantly geometric pattern of their own. As with other works in the Stacks series, the empty space between the separate parts is of equal importance to the area occupied by the actual pieces of Plexiglas, a concept that was of major interest to the sculptor throughout his career. Judd's concentration on the negative space between each Plexiglas box aesthetically recalls the "zips" of Abstract Expressionist and predecessor of Minimalism, Barnett Newman. Newman used the zip, or a thin line of pure color, to separate the solid fields of painted canvas. The zip serves as a visual interruption to the painting, a streak of light or darkness in an otherwise continuous space. In his 1993 treatise, Some aspects of colour in general and red and black in particular, Judd channeled Newman in articulating his definition of the space that exists between two objects: “If two objects are close together they define the space in between. These definitions are infinite until the two objects are so far apart that the distance in between is no longer space. But then the passer-by remembers that one was there and another here. The space between can be even more definite than the two objects which establish it; it can be a single space more than two objects are a pair.” (The artist cited in: "Some aspects of colour in general and red and black in particular," in: Ibid., p. 80). Thus, the ‘vacuum’ that exists between each individual element of the Stack assumes a key presence, becoming an integral part of the work in its own right. Since the space measures exactly the height of each individual component (9 inches in the case of Untitled (Bernstein 90-01)) the eye becomes party to a fascinating illusion, viewing the empty air as an extension of the single components on either side. As a result, the viewer arguably becomes a key part of the creative process, forging their own utterly unique interpretation of the work.
Judd began his treatise with a sentence that perfectly distils his creative practice: “Material, space, and colour are the main aspects of visual art.” (The artist cited in: Ibid., 79). All three of these concepts are perfectly expressed within Untitled (Bernstein 90-01): not only is Judd’s command of his material immensely impressive, but the carefully portioned segments of space and the stunning combination of darkness combined with translucency ensures that Untitled (Bernstein 90-01) is remarkably eloquently expressive of these ideals. Projecting a sense of meditative calm through its astonishing symmetry, Untitled (Bernstein 90-01) appears to transport the onlooker beyond their immediate surroundings into a realm of mental and philosophical contemplation; in its celebration of pure form the work succeeds in elevating itself above the limitations of painting and sculpture, leading to an entirely new creative theory and conception. Ultimately, Untitled (Bernstein 90-01) is an installation of extraordinary power: the work of a brilliantly imaginative mind at the very pinnacle of its creative powers.
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