Lot 27
  • 27

Donald Judd

3,000,000 - 5,000,000 USD
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  • Donald Judd
  • Untitled
  • galvanized iron and red lacquered aluminum
  • 30 x 141 x 30 in. 76.2 x 358.1 x 76.2 cm.


David Rabinowich, New York (acquired in 1980 by trade with the artist)
Bernar Venet, New York
Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2001


This work is in very good condition overall. Comments on condition of the different surfaces follow: Red lacquer bar: When fabricated, only the portions that are visible when installed were painted. The pigment application is sound and relatively free of scratches and nicks. One can note: --a 1 ½ in. long parallel set of 3 diagonal scratches to the aluminum (below the paint surface) at the center of the forward bottom above the 3rd box from the left. --On the right end, a minor small area of missing paint, on the lower front right corner --a few scattered very tiny spots of thinner paint application are associated with tiny imperfections in the aluminum the paint (not loss), primarily 2 3/8" from left end and (to the left of the right end): 3", 7"., 7 ¼", 11", 16", 18", and 46 11/16". -- a small 1/8 in. paint loss located 18 1/8 in. from the left end on the top front edge and another small loss located 48 ¾ in. from the right end on the top front edge. Galvanized iron boxes: The boxes are in excellent condition and uniformly oxidized. There is minor vertical scratching noticed on the lateral left side of the far right box and the lateral right side of the far left box far. These scratches appear dark, indicating they are very old and probably from time of fabrication. There are scattered areas of tiny white oxidation spots that do not distract from the overall presence of the work.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Donald Judd was unquestionably one of the leading practitioners of Minimalism, a label he himself shunned. After an earlier, more experimental phase within his career in the early 1960s that included canvas paintings and wall reliefs, Judd's work exclusively focused on a discrete vocabulary of sculptural forms and materials, works that he referred to as "objects," placed directly on the floor or installed on the wall.  Perhaps most akin to his peer Sol LeWitt, Judd was decidedly less concerned with creating a breadth of sculptural objects and forms and instead deliberately remained within a self-restricted realm, exploring the seemingly endless possibilities available to him within this invented repertoire.  Similar in format to one of Judd's earliest wall objects, Untitled, 1980 is a quintessential example of Judd's radically innovative practice: it is austere in form and concept while aesthetically sophisticated in color and surface treatment.

In addition to being an artist, Judd was an important writer and art critic particularly during the 1950s and 60s, completing his seminal text in 1965 entitled Specific Objects. In the essay, Judd firmly identified what he saw as problematic about painting and illusionism, the end of representational art, and the need to work in three dimensions utilizing what he referred to as "actual space." For Judd, his objects in space, which he was careful to distinguish from earlier, historical sculpture, provided an essential way forward, particularly following the imposing legacy of Abstract Expressionism and the seemingly oppressive rectilinear canvas.  Judd sought something that in his mind would be "larger than painting and much larger than sculpture...." as he stated in Specifc Objects.

Beginning in the early 1960s, Judd began work on a series of cubic and rectilinear objects - composed of both opened and closed boxes - that provided his practice with an essential life-long engagement, and one that deliberately resisted symbolic associations. Judd desired to create new work in which "the shape, image, color and surface are single and not partial and shattered." Accordingly, these works, like Judd's practice more generally, explored the relationship between space, scale, and materials and works were often structured as serial compositions possessing a rhythmic organization.  For example, Judd's serial fabrications frequently incorporated multiple units that were mathematically generated, equally privileging both the object itself and the resulting voids that the work would create between the multiple units. Simultaneously, by 1964, Judd began to have his sculptures constructed by a fabricator, consistently using industrial materials such as iron, aluminum, and Plexiglas, often imbued with a single color or limited palette. Objects were either installed directly on the ground, always avoiding the use of the pedestal, or else directly on the wall, a decision that seemed to further underscore Judd's desire to create work that challenged both painting and sculpture simultaneously.

By 1964, Judd began work on wall-mounted sculptures utilizing the cube form that would persist as a standard unit of construction throughout his oeuvre. These structures ranged from examples with discrete cubes set along the wall in a series, to conjoined cubes placed directly on the floor, to an early example such as To Susan Buckwalter, from 1964, consisting of four connected cubes mounted directly onto the wall.  This work, dedicated to a Kansas City collector who died in January 1965, was one of the earliest examples in which Judd utilized individual parts to create distinctive spaces - an idea he would use repeatedly in his vertical stacks. More particularly, with To Susan Buckwalter, Judd created a wall object in painted blue aluminum and galvanized iron, foreshadowing similar, later examples of horizontal wall progressions. In scale, form and arrangement, Untitled, 1980 is directly related to the seminal To Susan Buckwalter, differing only in the color choice of red for the painted aluminum element.

Untitled, executed in 1980, is a prime example of Judd's wall sculptures that directly reference earlier constructions that he completed in the 1960s. Here again, Judd's arguably limited repertoire of forms are revisited and manipulated within a variety of series, placements, materials, and applications of color. Installed directly on the wall, Untitled is comprised of four identical cubes connected by a long red squared pipe that is directly set into the top edge of each cube.  The work and its related precedents expand Judd's pre-existing vocabulary through the installation of the work on the wall; earlier examples were installed directly on the floor - objects such as Untitled of 1966 (40 x 190 x 40 inches and since destroyed) which was included in the Jewish Museum's landmark exhibition Primary Structures of the same year. Also significant is Judd's use of red - a color he incorporated frequently and seemed to believe possessed a certain formal strength. Red is also the color of Untitled (DSS 45), 1964, the painted wood wall object that was his first wall progression, using serialized reptitions of units and space. In the present work, red lacquer paint is applied in stark contrast to the metallic, almost painterly patina of the work's galvanized iron.  In an interview with John Coplans, when asked about his predisposition towards the color red, the artist affirms, "I like the color and I like the quality of cadmium red light.  And then, also, I thought for a color it had the right value for a three-dimensional object.  If you paint something black or any dark color, you can't tell what its edges are like.  If you paint it white, it seems small and purist.  And the red, other than a gray of that value, seems to be the only color that really makes an object sharp and defintes its contours and angles." ("don judd: an interview with john coplans," in Exh. Cat., Pasadena, Pasadena Art Museum, Don Judd, 1971, p. 25).  Unlike many of his Minimalist peers such as Carl Andre and Richard Serra, Judd was an unabashed colorist, interested in the way this seemingly decorative element could formally alter a work and be used to engage varying materials within a single object.  

In addition, Untitled is spatially complex as it is oriented both horizontally and from front to back, penetrating the gallery space with formidable depth and presence. Judd has preserved an identical amount of space between each individual part (approximately one quarter of the length of each cube); the rhythm of the work is as much supported by the object itself as by the resulting volumetric spaces. Notably, the red pipe conjoining the work is hollow (one is able to peer into this part of the construction from the side) underscoring Judd's desire to establish an interplay between the solid object and the void.

Therefore present within this seminal example are all of Judd's most significant interests: use of the recurring cube, a sculptural object installed on the wall, use of color, engagement with the void, and most basically, the continual reworking and elaboration of an existing serial construction. As a result, Untitled exemplifies Judd's success in endlessly reinventing work within his self-delineated, theoretical parameters. 
 - Jane Panetta, curatorial researcher, Whitney Museum of American Art