Donald Judd (1928-1994)
Property from the Collection of Max Palevsky
Donald Judd (1928-1994)

Untitled, 1980 (80-19 BERNSTEIN)

Donald Judd (1928-1994)
Untitled, 1980 (80-19 BERNSTEIN)
stamped 'JUDD BERNSTEIN BROS. INC. 80-19' (on the reverse of each unit)
stainless steel and red anondized aluminum
ten units--each: 9 x 40 x 31 in. (22.9 x 101.6 x 78.7 cm.)
Executed in 1980. (10)
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 1981
A. Betsky, Three California Houses: The Homes of Max Palevsky, New York, 2002, pp. 31, 43 and 48 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

Untitled, 1980 (80-19 BERNSTEIN) poignantly encapsulates in its well-defined lines Donald Judd's powerful, simple ideas about what art should be. Using only the supremacy of space and light and the intrinsic nature of his chosen materials, Judd produces a work that breaks free from centuries of artistic tradition to redefine the relationship between the presence of the work and the viewer. With Untitled, Judd continues to push the boundaries of his work, introducing different and ever more complex variations into his favored stack form, while retaining an unprecedented simplicity. By recessing the façades of the individual elements and fabricating them out of red anodized aluminum, he increases number of angles and contours to discover unexplored qualities of form.

We can find the origins of Donald Judd's Stacks in his visit to an exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Connecticut in the winter of 1964. In keeping with the season, the Black, White and Gray show featured works by Ad Reinhardt, Robert Morris, Barnett Newman and Tony Smith. However, the work of Dan Flavin in particular caught Judd's eye and inspired some of the most important Post-War artworks. Reviewing the exhibition for Arts Magazine, he could barely contain his excitement, "A single daylight-white tube has been placed at a diagonal on approximately an eleven-by-eleven wall at the end of a short corridor just off the court. It makes an intelligible area of the whole wallThe light is cast widely on the wall. The light is an industrial object and familiar; it is a means new to art. Art could be made of any number of new objects, materials or techniques" (D. Judd, Donald Judd: Complete Writings 1959-1975, Halifax, 1975, p. 119). Judd realized that a work's aesthetic effects of could extend beyond its physical boundaries. This drove the development of his Stacks. Separating the space from floor to ceiling into a sequence of solid versus empty forms and open versus enclosed spaces, Untitled, 1980 articulates the room's real space - rather than just an object's physicality - with unprecedented artistic precision.

Judd believed the object itself was a work's most important aspect. The form described in Untitled, 1980, particularly suited him, as it contained nothing to distract from the work's self-representation. He declared that all the form's elements were equally important and consequently there was no hierarchy in its formal properties. Consequently, Judd made his earliest Stacks from boxes fabricated from sheets of metal. "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," Judd wrote in his seminal essay Specific Objects in 1965. "The thing as a whole, is what is interesting. The main things are alone and are more intense, clear and powerful." For this reason Judd's Stacks - which he first developed in 1966 - are his "breakthrough" works. In them, he developed the simple and elegant mathematical language that would characterize and define all his subsequent work.

Judd maintained a regard for art's formal properties in spite of his iconoclasm. We can see how much he kept this in mind in the finish on Untitled, 1980. Its red cadmium appearance hints at a certain colorism which reveals itself in his work. However, to Judd color was arbitrary and unevocative. Discussing the use of the color red, Judd explained: "Color, like material, is what art is made from. It alone is not artI like the color and I like the quality of the Cadmium Red Light. [It has] the right value for a three dimensional object. If you paint something black or any dark color, you can't tell what its edges are like. If you paint it white, it seems small and purist. And red, other than a gray of that value, seems the only color that really makes an object sharp and defines its contours and angles" (D. Judd, "Some Aspects of Color in General and Red and Black in Particular" in D. Elgar, ed., Donald Judd: Colorist, exh. cat., Ostfildern-Ruit, 2000, p. 114).

Max Palevsky was deeply attracted to Judd's distinctive artistic practice and his work's intellectual rigor. Purchased directly from Donald Judd through legendary New York gallery owner Leo Castelli, Untitled, 1980 (80-19 BERNSTEIN) was at the very heart of Palevsky's collection of historic masterpieces of the 20th Century. Palevsky masterfully juxtaposed his art collection with his houses' architecture, showing extraordinary aesthetic balance. Positioned prominently within Palevsky's Palm Springs home - designed by renowned modernist architect Craig Ellwood - Untitled, 1980 stimulates both the eyes and the mind.

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