Donald Judd (1928–1994)
Donald Judd (1928–1994)
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Donald Judd (1928–1994)


Donald Judd (1928–1994)
stamped 'DONALD JUDD 87-30 ALUMINIUM AG MENZIKEN' (on the reverse)
clear anodized aluminum with red and green over black acrylic sheets
10 x 40 x 10 in. (25 x 100 x 25 cm.)
Executed in 1987.
Galerie Aronowitsch, Stockholm
Private collection, Sweden
Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, 15 May 2008, lot 253
Private collection
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Stockholm, Galerie Aronowitsch, Donald Judd, March 1988, n.p. (illustrated).

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Kathryn Widing
Kathryn Widing

Lot Essay

"Three dimensions are real space ... that gets rid of the problem of illusionism and literal space, space in and around marks and colors which is riddance of one of the salient and most objectionable relics of European art." -- Donald Judd

In the 1980s, Donald Judd’s sculptural practice culminated in a body of chromatic wall pieces that combined his seminal modular forms with a deepening interest in color. Untitled, from 1987, is representative of the artist’s shift toward color as a means of physical expression, using commercial enamel paint to emphasize the industrial form. A major frontrunner of the American Minimalists and one of the first artists to embrace industrial materials and production, Donald Judd is widely-known for his views on art and its processes of production. Judd’s sculptures are based upon his rejection of illusionism and representation, creating autonomous forms that force the beholder to focus solely upon the object’s formal characteristics. Untitled incorporates Judd’s attention to space, material, and color within a simple chromatic scheme, austere geometry, and objectivity, resulting in an apparition of extraordinary spatial presence. The use of red and black within the form creates a visual discrepancy, defining the work as a comprehensive example of Judd’s thoughtful aesthetic.
Born from an extensive exploration into color that began in 1984, Untitled is a particularly striking example of the artist’s melding of elements. This piece can be characterized by the interaction of two monochromatic, equal sized, rectangular units composed in tones of red and black. The rectangular blocks run parallel to one another with rigid regularity ultimately forming a unified wall-mounted sculpture, while the use of individual flat colors, a signature aspect of Judd’s oeuvre, forms the organizing principle of the work. Judd handles the arrangement of color with a mathematical acuity, deliberately coordinating the sculpture so that no rectangular color block falls in tandem with a unit of the same color. The stringent geometry of Judd’s forms create spatial clarity that enables the viewer to concentrate upon the interplay of color and architectural space. Judd’s rectilinear system creates depth and casts shadows that impact the compositional tones and surface, causing the whole structure to engage deeply with the space surrounding it.
Untitled exemplifies Judd’s understanding of color as a concept, contrasting black with a deep, rich red, the artist’s favored color throughout his celebrated career. Judd classified red as a ‘tough’ color and used it with the intention of rejecting any connotation it may carry. A particularly notable combination, Judd saw red and black in contrast to one another, with red defining contours and black blurring them; while red clarified shape and form, black obscured boundaries. Untitled shows these colors side by side, provoking a visual divergence in an otherwise linear form.
Constructed from traditional industrial materials, all trace of the artist’s hand are removed from the work. Each block is formed with aluminum and aluminum coated in enamel paint—materials that are characteristic of Judd’s work in the 1980s – stemming from a commercial color chart as a means to explore the physical expression of color. In this particular work, Judd uses a red enamel in order to emphasize the angularity of the aluminum sheets, particularly when juxtaposed with black. Judd elaborates on the significance of his chromatic scheme, stating that ‘by definition, the images and symbols are made by institutions. A pair of colors that I knew of as a child in Nebraska was red and black, which a book said was the ‘favorite’ of the Lakota. In the codices of the Maya, red and black signify wisdom and are the colors of scholars’ (D. Judd, “Some Aspects of Color in General and Red and Black in Particular,” Donald Judd Colorist, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2000, p. 116).
An acclaimed example of Donald Judd’s chromatic wall pieces, Untitled, 1987 is rooted in the summer of 1984, when the artist was commissioned to create an outdoor work for an exhibition in Basel, Switzerland. Rather than creating a work in the United States and shipping it overseas, Judd contacted a Swiss fabricator that was willing to construct the elements for a new sculpture from precise specifications. The Lehni Company, a furniture manufacturer near Zürich, bent aluminum sheets and painted them with enamel paint that corresponded to colors Judd had selected from the RAL paint chart. This European industrial color matching system enthralled the artist with its regimented system of contrasting and complimentary color schemes and a wide range of hues, sparking an exploration of color that would define his later work. By having precisely machined aluminum evenly coated with flat enamel, Judd created objects that exist as treatises on the confluence of pure color and form.
Although his ethos and purified sculptural forms correlate with the Minimalist Art movement of the 1960s, Judd has claimed independence from the group through various writings. His sculptures challenge our understanding of space, material, and color; the three constitutive features that form his revolutionary approach to art. Judd’s work in the 1980s brought about an exploration of color that would define his later work and his entire ethos and within Untitled, a refinement of this understanding is visible through the use of color as a fundamental element. Judd stated, “Color is like material. It is one way or another, but it obdurately exists. Its existence as it is, is the main fact and not what it might mean, which may be nothing. Or rather, color does not connect alone to any of the several states of the mind. ...Color, like material, is what art is made from” (M. Stockebrand, ed., Donald Judd: The Mutlicolored Works, New Haven and London, 2014, p. 277-278).

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