An enthralling synthesis of colour, space, and form, Donald Judd’s Untitled encapsulates the American artist’s iconic Minimalist aesthetic. Spanning nearly a metre and a half in length, this wall-mounted work is formed from a series of interconnected rectangular and box-like units, rendered in vivid blocks of colour: pure white, black, charcoal grey, walnut brown, and a singular burst of aureolin yellow. Executed in 1985, Untitled is an archetypal piece from Judd’s mature practice. With its meticulous structure and conceptual precision, the work exemplifies the artist’s revolutionary visual language which looked not to the conventions of the past but rather to the contemporary moment for artistic inspiration. Eschewing the illusory realm evoked using traditional artist’s tools, including oil and canvas, marble, and bronze, Judd instead sought to champion industrial materials, such as steel, concrete, plexiglass, and, as in the present work, aluminium, in order to explore the physical, tangible space around him. The pioneering artistic theories that were to shape Judd’s career were developed as early as 1965. “Three dimensions are real space,” he wrote in his seminal essay ‘Specific Objects’. This real space “gets rid of the problem of illusionism and of literal space, space in and around marks and colors – which is riddance of one of the salient and most objectionable relics of European art. The several limits of painting are no longer present… Actual space is intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface" (Donald Judd, 'Specific Objects’ in: Donald Judd: Complete Writings 1959-1975, Halifax 1975, p. 181).
At once mounted onto the wall yet intrinsically three-dimensional, Untitled hovers elusively between the boundaries of painting and sculpture. Indeed, striving to liberate his art from the shackles of European tradition, Judd radically redefined his autonomous artworks, declaring them to be, not sculptures, but rather ‘specific objects’. Bold, geometric, and modular, his self-reflexive and industrial creations hence call into question the very notion of art itself. As curator Gen Umezu has stated, Judd “kept making works in which everything seems so clear and yet, or perhaps consequently, they remain nothing but a mystery” (Gen Umezu, ‘The Purification of Experiences: On the Art of Donald Judd’ in: Exh. Cat., Saitama, The Museum of Modern Art, Donald Judd 1960-1991, 1999, p. 86). Judd’s influential ethos reached its climax in his works of the 1980s, as he began to incorporate colour in a greater variety, intensity, and complexity than ever before. As the artist himself proclaimed, “Space is now a main aspect of present art, comparable only to color as a force” (Donald Judd, 'Some Aspects of Color in General and Red and Black in Particular', 1993 in: Marianne Stockebrand, Ed., Donald Judd: The Multicolored Works, New Haven and London 2014, pp. 277-78). Embracing the three central components of Judd’s pictorial syntax – namely space, material, and colour – Untitled draws the viewer into a compelling contemplation of its own spatial, reductive, and purified form.
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