Executed in 1987, Untitled (Menziken 87-27 AG) epitomises the precise austerity that characterises Donald Judd’s oeuvre. Despite resisting categorisation as part of any one aesthetic movement, it is undeniable that Judd was one of the key figures of Minimalism. Along with contemporaries Carl Andre, Dan Flavin and Sol Lewitt, Judd began to move away from the handmade in the 1960s, turning towards mechanized, industrial processes in a move that directly challenged the traditional belief that the artist’s hand is integral to aesthetic value.
Untitled (Menziken 87-27 AG) is part of this on-going artistic development in which Judd has intentionally sought to create autonomous works that operate entirely without reference to other pictorial worlds: “It isn’t necessary for a work to have a lot of things to look at, to compare, to analyse one by one, to contemplate. The thing as a whole, its quality as a whole, is what is interesting. The main things are alone and are more intense, clear and powerful. They are not diluted by an inherited format, variations of a form, mild contrasts and connecting parts and areas” (Donald Judd, ‘Specific Objects’, reprinted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Bielefeld, Kunsthalle, Houston, The Menil Collection, Donald Judd: Early Work 1955–1968, 2002, p. 94).
The standardised Menziken boxes have a restrained, uniform lustre that combines with the boldly coloured Plexiglas that lines the box, internalising the colour and light of the composition and rendering the works entirely self-referential. Judd describes the process, “The box with the plexiglass inside is an attempt to make a definitive second surface. The inside is radically different from the outside. Whilst the outside is definite and rigorous, the inside is indefinite” (The artist quoted in: John Coplans, ‘An interview with Don Judd’ in: Exhibition Catalogue, Saitama, The Museum of Modern Art, Shiga, The Museum of Modern Art, Donald Judd 1960-1961, 1999, p. 162).
Strikingly simple, Untitled (Menziken 87-27 AG) remains a work in which Judd’s innate understanding of space and colour combine to create a work of real aesthetic sophistication and purity.