Donald Judd (1928-1994)
stamped 'DONALD JUDD 85-10 LEHNI AG SWITZERLAND' (on the reverse)
11 7/8 x 71 x 11 7/8 in. (30.2 x 180.3 x 30.2 cm.)
Executed in 1985.
Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Sylvio Perlstein, Paris, 1986
His sale; Sotheby's, New York, 9 May 1996, lot 257
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

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Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan

Lot Essay

Considered the leader of the Minimalist movement, Donald Judd consolidates the emergence of Contemporary art in the 1960’s as his work expands the meaning and relevance of Conceptual art in contemporary society. Framing material through an idea, Judd constructed works that challenged the capabilities of industrial mediums such as aluminum, wood or steel. His work focused on exploiting the materiality of a medium, as with it he pushes the limits of what the material itself can physically achieve. His sculptures focus on expanding the limits of Minimalism and Conceptual art as they test the viewer’s perception of structures that mimic banal objects. His work was able to detach from political contexts and focus on establishing a dialogue between the physical and visual properties of the work and the viewer. Hence, presenting material on its purest form while simultaneously pushing and pulling its physical properties, Judd solidified the relationship between Conceptual art and contemporary sculpture.
The first multicolored series was made for the artist’s exhibition at Skulptor im 20. Jahrhundert in Meridian Park on the outskirts of Basel. Untitled is part of Judd’s multicolored series that follows this exhibition in the mid-1980s and marks the introduction of color to his material assemblages. Untitled consists of an assemblage of rectangular shapes, and takes the form of a multicolored wall relief. The sculpture consists of opened fronts of vaying lengths that are stacked together in a floating shelf-like format. In this work, Judd brings back painting into his practice, as color rather than structure or material, becomes the main character of the show. Here, color highlights and dims the hollow boxes, adding a lyrical as well as playful quality to the structure. Factual and unambiguous, Judd’s playful use of color is flat and preserves the shape of the assemblage intact. The coldness and sterility of the aluminum contrasts with the joyful quality of color, creating a confronting dialogue between the relationship of color and structure. “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.”(D. Judd, “Some Aspects of Color in General and Red and Black in Particular (1993),” rpt. in Donald Judd: The Mutlicolored Works, ed. M. Stockebrand, New Haven and London, 2014, pp. 277-78). The addition of color allowed Judd to create works that were more precious to the viewer without compromising his commitment to presenting works that remain true to its material qualities.
The multicolored series was fabricated by furniture manufacturing companies in Switzerland. By outsourcing the construction of the work to furniture fabricators, Judd was able to create a seamless and flawless object whose framework did not distract but highlight the physical properties of the material that comprise it. Floating on the wall and camouflaging as a shelf, Untitled consolidates Judd’s effort to create works that challenge one’s perception of art and creating work that is honest to its material conditions and format. "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" (D. Judd, 'Specific Objects,' Donald Judd: Complete Writings 1959-1975, Halifax, 1975, p. 181). The outsourcing of production became essential in Judd’s practice, allowing him to solely focus on the idea while simultaneously creating a pristine object out of the material of his choice. The process was secondary, the idea and how to achieve the production of it became the crucial element of his artistic process.
The idea becomes the key medium for Judd. Questioning what it means to produce a flawless and sleek object through contemporary forms of industrial production. It reflects on the industrial era and the rapid changes of the late 20th century. The artist creates a consumable object that is desirable in every way, which is a revolutionary concept that would later be embraced by Jeff Koons. Judd adapts Marcel Duchamp’s idea of the readymade into the contemporary context of American society. Additionally, the institutional framework given by the wall where the work resides, provides the object the context of art. Even if the structure does not assimilate to the audience’s visual expectations, “If we consider his development from a painter to an object maker/architect, and if we consider how much of the painter is perceptible in his objects and vice versa, Judd’s refusal to call his objects 'sculptures' makes all the more sense. His work is closer to an architectural conception of space and the color obsessions of painting than it is to the volumetric articulations of sculpture” (Ibid., p. 10). Untitled reflects on the idea of the readymade, paying homage to Duchamp at the same time showing that the contemporary art world has transcended from Duchamp. The work is disguised as a banal object, as it looks and feels like a shelf. Nevertheless, this is a pseudo object whose industrial production is orchestrated by the artist to challenge one’s expectations of art.

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