The inextricable dynamism between form, color, and space renders Donald Judd's Untitled a truly superb example of his aesthetic philosophy and the Minimalist tenets for which he stood. Presented as a set of twelve extruded aluminum wall structures, each in a different color, the units are sovereign in their own physicality and devoid of symbolic allusion to the outside world. Each of these structures exists as a signature ‘specific object,’ the term Judd himself coined in his seminal artistic treatise Specific Objects (1964) that proclaimed his fundamental beliefs on the confluence of space, form, and structure. Judd executed such specific objects over the course of his entire career, beginning with structures of raw industrial materials presented on the floor and evolving to highly finished, glossy structures mounted directly onto the wall such as Untitled from 1991.
Overtly simple yet subtly complex, cold in form yet inviting in silken appeal, begging for equality yet dissimilar in twelve colors, certain binaries infuse this work with intrigue and contrast. Judd, however, was not encumbered by inherent binaries and juxtapositions in his work, but rather used them as a strategic template to liberate the interaction between the viewer and his work. Of utmost importance to Judd was the relationship between the viewer, the structure itself, and the space that both entities inhabit, and in this particular work, an alluring and arresting sense of environment emerges through such triangulation. It is in this spatial environment that Judd’s aesthetic effect reigns and we find a continual negation of the manmade with rejection of external illusion, paired with a relentless pursuit to capture purity in form and color. Judd explored such synthesis between form and color in his writings, saying “Color is like material…it obdurately exists. Its existence as it is is the main fact and not what it might mean, which may be nothing. Or rather, color does not connect alone to any of the several states of the mind. Color, like material, is what art is made from. It alone is not art” (the artist in Dietmar Elger, Ed., Donald Judd: Colorist, New York 2000, p.114).
That art is derived from color, yet not solely defined by it, is a compelling force driving Judd’s work. Through Judd’s vision we see that color is paramount, indispensable to art, but it is and can only ever be a component, a symbol, or a catalyst—not the essence of the art itself. Judd never viewed color as finite. In his eyes color was an agent for possibility—something that would raise questions, not provide answers. In Untitled from 1991, Judd’s exploration of color is preeminent as he investigates the nature by which twelve different colors work not in isolation but in dialogue and collaboration.
Judd concentrated on creating serialized work comprised of multiple yet identical units. His habit of working in geometrically-rooted multiples evokes a sense of uniformity, repetition, and standardization that resonates with the strategic effect of his chosen industrial, factory materials. Here in Untitled, the aluminum’s anodized finish appeals to a type of sleekness and polished perfection that altogether eschews the hand of the artist. As William C. Agee observed, Judd’s degree of clarity and precision in his work often “bestows on his art the look of something given or preordained…it was an art that masked the intensive labor, a labor of the mind and of thought” (William C. Agee, Donald Judd in Retrospect, New York 1994, p. 6). Agee insists, however, that Judd’s work was never preordained and its ultimate conclusion was a consistent surprise to Judd. One must imagine that in Untitled from 1991 the most striking element of surprise is the voice and sentiment which emanates through twelve glowing wall pieces, each proclaiming distinct color and conviction. Untitled boasts an unparalleled synthesis of material, space, form, and color, exuding a sense of uncomplicated, yet sophisticated nuance through the ineffable magnetism of the work.
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