Executed in 1976, Donald Judd's Untitled (76-32 Bernstein) is a sleek and refined rendition of one of the artist's most enduring themes that explore the artist's fascination with measurements and mathematics. Judd first developed the curved progression format of these works in 1964 as a development from his work on an untitled floor piece that set a hollow pipe into a solid wooden block. Transformed into the idea of a progression, in which solid form and empty space alternate and interact according to a mathematical series extended along a horizontal axis, Judd transferred this simple spatial play into relief form by developing it in a work that would hang on the wall. In doing this, his manufactured works began to echo some of the formal developments that Judd, originally a painter, had experimented with in his early paintings. The first progression in this format was made in wood and painted a dark red, but soon after, when Judd began having his works made by the industrial manufacturers Bernstein Brothers in 1964, these 'progressions,' were cast in a wide variety of metals.
In an evolution from the simple repetitive geometry of a work like Brancusi's Endless Column Judd's curved 'progression' materializes into a seemingly repetitive but in fact developmental and growing sequence using the simplest of means. The eloquent translation of this simple numerical increase into material form combined lends the work a transcendent, futuristic and almost unworldly feel that is at odds with its manifest materiality and the overt simplicity of the work's structure. In an interview with John Coplans, Judd discussed the possible progressions, "In one of the progressions I used the Fibonacci series. In another I used the kind of inverse natural number series: one, minus a half, plus a third, a fourth, a fifth, etc. No one other than a mathematician is going to know what that series really is. You don't walk up to it and understand how it is working, but I think you do understand that there is a scheme there, and that it doesn't look as if it is just done part by part visually. So it's not conceived part by part, it's done in one shot. The progressions made it possible to use an asymmetrical arrangement, yet to have some sort of order not involved in composition." (D. Judd and J. Coplans, "Don Judd" (Interview), in Don Judd, exh. cat., Pasadena Art Museum, 1971, p. 38).
Projecting out from the flat plane of the wall in clear relief format, the curved forms of the surface of Untitled (76-32 Bernstein) and the punctuated empty spaces between them articulate a spatial play in real space in the same way that a painting does so illusionistically. This clinically measured and precisely realized mathematical sequence of alternating form generates a simple relief that Judd intended would, in a way that is impossible in painting, involve itself in the flat but real space of the wall and interact with its surroundings. It was Judd's hope that the articulation of the manifest contrast between the flat plane of the wall and the relief by the work itself would, dependent on its placement, invoke a wider understanding of the entire architecture of the space into which it was set.
"Judd always referred to his works as 'specific objects', as works of art that, for him, existed somewhere between painting and sculpture. He described them in these terms because they derive their representational qualities on the one hand from their physical volume and the space they occupy, and on the other hand from their material appearance, their surface qualities - internal and external - their coloration and the effect created under various lighting conditions. As a result of their deliberate artificiality - expressed through a combination of dimensions, materials and coloration - Judd's works keep a safe distance from the observer and allow no interpretation" (T. Deecke, MINIMAL MAXIMAL. Minimal Art and its influence on international art of the 1990s, Bremen, 1998, p. 145).