- Donald Judd
- stainless steel and red fluorescent Plexiglas in ten units
Acquired from the above in 1977
Donald Judd was a master of innovation, defining a new lexicon of sculptural concerns along with his contemporaries in Minimalist art, Carl Andre, Dan Flavin and Sol LeWitt. With its pristine, geometric forms and intense, resonating color, Untitled is a majestic example of Judd's audacity which was unilaterally acknowledged as the portent of a new aesthetic era when it first emerged in New York during the 1960s. A key figure who changed the course of modern sculpture, Judd moved from the handmade toward the fabricated, eschewing the traditional conceit that traces of the artist's hand are integral to aesthetic expression. Judd chose industrial materials such as steel, copper, iron, and Plexiglas, to create the most precise and elegant forms for his sculptures. Deceptively simple in appearance, Judd's work is governed by a unique syntax of reductive, highly distilled geometric forms as he divested art of imitative realism and illusionist depictions of space in favor of literal properties.
Judd's vertical progressions - known as 'Stacks' - are widely regarded as his breakthrough works. He made his first stack in 1965 and by the end of that decade he had established a core vocabulary of forms whose permutations preoccupied him for the next thirty years, exploiting different color and material combinations to their full potential. Consisting of ten evenly spaced units arranged on the wall from floor to ceiling, the space between each unit the same as the unit itself, the stacks interrogate the purity of color and the physical properties of space, in a sequence of solid versus void. For Judd, the wall and its relation to the art object was integral to his aesthetic concept, and the Stacks articulate the real space of the room with an unprecedented degree of precision.
As the present work lucidly demonstrates, the multipart sculpture derives meaning from the interaction of its parts; rejecting hierarchical compositions, individual elements are neither subordinate nor dominant in relation to each other. Instead, the form of the work is defined by simple laws of geometry and proportion which diffuses the metaphysical pretensions of art. Indeed, Judd disavowed the very term "sculpture" which he associated with the hand-crafted art of an earlier era. Judd coined the term specific objects to stress their neutral, discrete nature as functionless objects rather than traditional sculpture. Most strikingly, Stacks such as Untitled break from convention by dispensing with the pedestal which had traditionally isolated sculpture from the viewer, substituting in its place a direct relationship with the architectural space around it. The equivalent distances between the forms become part of the work itself; they function as open volumes articulating the space from floor to ceiling in a progression of open versus enclosed space.
Color is one of the most salient aspects in Judd's trinity of values. In an essay on color he stated: "Material, space and color are the main aspects of visual art" (In: Dietmar Elger, Ed., Donald Judd Colorist, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2000, p. 79). Judd's work is informed by painting and his declared ambition was to extend the unity, immediacy, scale and clarity that he found in the work of Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko in particular. As a series, the Stacks can be seen as an intense, systematic investigation of color and materials within a given format. Judd experimented with various different combinations, interrogating the different reflective qualities of metals, such as galvanised steel and copper, combined with Plexiglas of varying hues and translucency. For Judd, color is devoid of illusion and indivisible from the material form. The silvery gleam of stainless steel is as much a color to Judd as the brilliant red jewel tones of the Plexiglas in Untitled. The shimmering exterior of the stainless steel dematerialises its otherwise obdurate, opaque form, while the transparent Plexiglas both reveals the interior construction and, through the translucent passage of light, unites the physical object with the wall support even further. The intense, almost liquid red fills the voids with intangible rays of light that paradoxically serve to augment the sense of tangible space. In this way, Untitled forms a marriage between material, space and color - the harmonious expression of Judd's complex aesthetic.