‘Judd’s wall boxes appear as neither low nor high relief in relation to the wall. They avoid relating to the wall as a ground plane, which would be a conventional sculptural effect, a situation analogous to paint within a rectangle set against its fictive ground plane, or “background,” illusionistically. The space of Judd’s boxes is their own’
‘Three dimensions are real space. That gets rid of the problem of illusionism and of literal space, space in and around marks and colors – which is the riddance of one of the salient and most objectionable relics of European art. The several limits of painting are no longer present. A work can be as powerful as it can be thought to be’
A proud incursion into space, Untitled (1987) celebrates material, colour and near architectural form. With its distinct, perfect edges and uncompromising corners, the work demands deep and focused attention. Executed just seven years before the artist’s death, Untitled epitomises Judd’s use of aluminium and acrylic, materials whose flawless surfaces heighten the work’s uncanny optical magic. The box is fronted with orange acrylic bisected by an internal aluminium divider, and its right half is divided again by aluminium masking one third of the frontal surface: the interior is visible but screened, new areas and spatial relationships coming into sight as the viewer’s position shifts. Perfectly aware of the space it inhabits, the verticality of the wall and the planes of floor and ceiling are succinctly acknowledged in the work’s wall-mounted format.
Judd amplifies the work’s spatial presence through his materials. With colour contained in its hard, flat plane, the acrylic sheet both elides the need for painterly application of colour and creates lived perceptual illusions in its play of tinted translucency and reflection: it is entirely non-referential, instead inflecting and enhancing the work’s own specific, self-justifying presence. Indeed, rather than confounding the viewer, Judd spoke of the medium as demystifying his objects. ‘Plexiglas exposes the interior, so the volume is opened up. It is fairly logical to open it up so the interior can be viewed. It makes it less mysterious, less ambiguous. I’m also interested in what might be called the blank areas, or just the plain areas, and what is seen obliquely, so the color and the plane and the face are somewhat obscure to the front. It’s the other way round when seeing the side. In most of my pieces there are no front and no sides – it depends on the viewing position of the observer’ (D. Judd quoted in J. Coplans, Don Judd, exh. cat. Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, 1971, pp. 36-7).
As much a polemicist and philosopher as an artist, Judd aimed to create what he called ‘specific objects:’ things in themselves that refused to represent or reference any things in the world, rejecting entirely the illusionistic traditions of Western art. He avoided hierarchy in his compositions, and denied any emotional content to colour. The resulting minimal forms have an astonishingly powerful presence, exploring ideas never before articulated in aesthetic practice. In concert with his uncompromising and hard-edged critical views, Judd’s art aimed to define the very boundaries of what art can express. In works like Untitled, Judd declares with unequivocal power that the observer and the object in space are all that matter: all other things are merely history.