"It isn't necessary for a work to have a lot of things to look at, to compare, to analyze 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."
is a quintessential example of Donald Judd’s radically innovative sculptural practice: austere in form while aesthetically sophisticated in color, concept and spatial treatment. Abiding by strict conceptual premises articulated with a discrete vocabulary of three-dimensional forms and materials, Judd created a wealth of works from his self-imposed economy of means, defining these works as specific objects, not sculptures, which he placed directly onto the floor or the wall as seen in the present example. Flawlessly constructed from anodized aluminum and dark blue acrylic sheet, Untitled
exquisitely fulfills Judd’s pioneering ambition to create autonomous artworks that operate entirely without reference to other pictorial worlds. Known as Menziken
Judd created these specific objects between 1987 and 1994 alongside the fabricator Menizken AG. The present work, Untitled,
from 1987, is one of the earliest Menziken
and possesses a restrained and uniform aesthetic that juxtaposes the industrial, matte aluminum exterior surface with an internal lining of glossy and chromatically captivating dark blue Plexiglas. Over the course of three years, Judd oversaw the fabrication of fifteen unique Menziken
boxes in this 10 by 45 by 10 inch size, further highlighting the present example as an incredibly rare work from his oeuvre. Judd described, “The box with the Plexiglas 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 in Exh. Cat., Saitama, The Museum of Modern Art (and traveling), Donald Judd 1960-1961,
1991, p. 162). In exploring Untitled's
ambient space, the viewer’s ever-changing position uncovers new geometries from alternate vantage points; the fall of shadow in one direction may impart subtle variations in the abyssal blue tone of the reflected light emanating from the flawless Plexiglas, while the weightless hovering of the form itself amplifies the work’s serene optical effect.
By the mid-1960s Judd had shunned the idea of traditional art forms entirely as his attention shifted from painting to sculpture with a strong architectural influence. In his breakthrough 1965 treatise entitled Specific Objects
, Judd defined a holistic aesthetic philosophy whereby the work of art need only refer to its own internal geometry and external form within the space it occupies. Judd elaborated saying, “It isn’t necessary for a work to have to have a lot of things to look at, to compare, to analyze 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 inherent format, variations of a form, mild contrasts and connecting parts and areas” (the artist in "Specific Objects," 1965, reprinted in Exh. Cat., Kunsthalle Bielefeld (and traveling), Donald Judd: Early Work 1955-1968,
2002, p. 94). Following the publishing of this treatise, Judd began to abide by a strict conceptual premise articulated by this discrete vocabulary of three-dimensional forms and materials. The earliest works were singular, freestanding box-like forms constructed of wood or metal and expanded into more complex explorations in space by introducing repeated sequences and rows, highlighting space itself as a defining component within these specific objects.
By the 1970s, Judd pushed the boundaries and increased the scale, complexity and variety of his highly aesthetic and conceptual investigations. From the early 1960s Judd had rejected the concept of the handmade and began to employ fabricators, including the Bernstein Brothers in Queens and later Alu Menziken AG in Switzerland, to eliminate any trace of the artist’s hand. Judd’s preference for industrial materials such as steel, copper, Plexiglas and aluminum allowed him to create precise and flawless specific objects. Untitled embodies this vision by eliminating illusion through the creation of material objects of elemental force, which dramatically coexist with the surrounding space. Earlier in the 1960s, Judd employed colored Plexiglas as top and bottom surfaces or lateral sides, which allowed light to expose the interior structure of the units while casting jewel-tone reflections on the surrounding space when lit properly. In Untitled, Judd turns this exploration inward allowing color and light to create spatial complexity within the unites then further compounded by the addition of aluminum partitions within the form. The rich blue Plexiglas aligns physically with the wall surface along the inside vertical surface within the form suggesting a limitless void extending far beyond the wall almost alluding to the endless sky or vast sea. The vertical aluminum partitions further create a dramatic play of light and shadow causing subtle tonal variations and luminosity. Untitled embodies Judd’s interplay of color, space and material while elegantly expanding on Judd’s premise on spatial relations by asserting his genius for harnessing such complexity through the most refined means.