- Donald Judd
- Untitled (DSS 134)
- green Plexiglas and stainless steel
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1968
Los Angeles, Lannan Foundation, Floored: Sculptures from the Lannan Foundation Collection, April - August 1995
Houston, The Menil Collection, Dan Flavin/Donald Judd: Aspects of Color, November 1998 - January 1999, cat. no. 3
Beacon, Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries, Extended Loan, 2000 to June 2013
The present work was executed in 1968, constructed from a form first explored in Untitled (DSS 128) of the same year. It is one of five comparable sculptures, all of varying colored Plexiglas, three of which are in the permanent collections of prominent museums: the amber example is at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the blue example is at the Walker Art Center, and the yellow example is at the Art Institute of Chicago. Untitled (DSS 134) was acquired in the year of its execution from Irving Blum Gallery in Los Angeles by the distinguished collector J. Patrick Lannan, Sr. for the Lannan foundation and was on loan for over a decade at Dia:Beacon in New York.
Simultaneously, Untitled (DSS 134) is both inherently solid and ostensibly diaphanous, presenting us with an exemplary physical manifestation of Judd’s signature style. Deceptively simple in appearance, Judd’s work is far more recondite and varied than is readily apparent. Underpinned by a strong allegiance to empirical thinking fostered during his formative years as a student of philosophy at Columbia University, Judd’s unique syntax of reductive and highly distilled geometric forms sought to divest art of imitative realism and illusionist depictions of space. Rejecting metaphor, allusion and metaphysical speculations in favor of literal truth, Judd sought to replace ambiguity and inconclusiveness with logic and clarity. The rich green Plexiglas of the present work's outer layer surrounds a shining stainless steel interior form so that this metallic core appears to inexplicably float, resulting in a beautifully complex representation of positive and negative space. David Raskin notes of this form, “in my understanding, Judd’s works of art polarize their durable and ephemeral properties to greater and lesser extents, and this particular example suggests that they also bind our intelligence and intuition. A möbius, it exists at the edge of sense as its optical effects and color effects flow from inside out and back around again.” (David Raskin, Donald Judd, New Haven, 2010, p. 65)
By the end of the seminal decade from 1960 to 1970 Judd had established a core vocabulary of forms, including the present example, whose various permutations preoccupied him for the next thirty years. In the tradition of Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko, he exploited different color and material combinations to their full potential in a proliferation of closely related works. Just as Rothko viewed his pigments as whole with his canvas surface, Judd felt color was devoid of illusion and indivisible from the material forms of his work. In a 1993 essay, Judd declared that “More than the so-called form, or the shapes, color is the most powerful force. In retrospect, and only so, the expansion of color is logical until the 1960s, concluding with the painting of Pollock, Newman, Still and Rothko. The need for color, the meaning of that need, more than anything destroyed the earlier representational painting...Color is an immediate sensation, a phenomenon, and in that leads to the work of Flavin, Bell and Irwin.” (Dietmar Elger, ed., Donald Judd Colorist, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2000, p. 98) The above quotation is deeply reflective of Judd’s artistic ideology: his art is highly conceptual, profoundly cognizant of its place in art history and constructed to communicate an immediate and coherent singular visual impression.
Judd’s concern for purity and non-illusionist space vehemently contradicted the aesthetic systems formerly associated with sculpture. His simple, declarative, unambiguous forms, for which he coined the term specific objects in order to stress their neutral, discrete nature, disavow the very term “sculpture,” which Judd associated with the hand-crafted art of an earlier era. Untitled (DSS 134) does not evolve from an artistic process of carving or modeling; it is not figurative nor is it anthropomorphic. Most strikingly, the present work breaks from convention by dispensing with the pedestal which had traditionally isolated sculpture in an ideal realm beyond the viewer, substituting in its place a direct relationship with the architectural space around it by forging an unmediated relationship between floor and ceiling. Due to its geometric format, the empty space around and inside the form becomes part of the work itself; they function as articulations of open versus enclosed space. In this way, Judd’s floor box structures share an affinity with the sculpture of David Smith, particularly his seminal Cubi series created in the same decade as the present work.
Judd’s exploration of color in the present work, as well as in its counterparts within the Plexiglas box structure series, can be seen as an intense, systematic investigation within a given format, a corollary of Barnett Newman’s 'zip' paintings. Throughout his career Judd experimented with various combinations, interrogating the different reflective qualities of metals, such as galvanized steel and brass, combined with Plexiglas of varying hues and translucency. What attracted Judd to this material was the truthfulness of its intrinsic color which emanates from within the medium itself. The optical quality of the present work creates sinuous light patterns of vaporous insubstantiality as highlights glint and surfaces dissolve and then reassert themselves. As the viewer’s eye navigates the crisply delineated right-angled edges and corners of the work, the complex play of reflections fuses the sculpture with the surrounding space, the deep green color bleeding into the space around it. In this way, Untitled (DSS 134) forms a marriage between material, space and color: the harmonious expression of Judd’s complex aesthetic.