DONALD JUDD (1928-1994)
DONALD JUDD (1928-1994)
DONALD JUDD (1928-1994)
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DONALD JUDD (1928-1994)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Roger Sant Collection
DONALD JUDD (1928-1994)

Untitled

Details
DONALD JUDD (1928-1994)
Untitled
stamped 'JUDD BERNSTEIN BROS.INC.JO 70-34' (on the reverse)
copper
5 x 69 x 8 1/2 in. (12.7 x 175.3 x 21.6 cm.)
Executed in 1970. This work is number one from an edition of three.
Provenance
Locksley Shea Gallery, Minneapolis
Private collection, 1971
Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, 11 November 2009, lot 19
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Literature
D. del Balso, B. Smith and R. Smith, Donald Judd -Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Objects and Wood-blocks 1960 -1974, Ottawa, 1975, p. 222, cat no. 233 (illustrated).
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Sale room notice
This work is number one from an edition of three.

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of 20th Century Evening Sale, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art

Lot Essay

Donald Judd, one of the twentieth-century’s most important artists who changed modern sculpture forever, pushed space and materials to their limits as he investigated previously unconsidered forms and art histories. He was interested in regimented shapes, like stacks, blocks, and grids, as he brought the industrial truth of materials to the fore, rather than individuality and artistic expression. At nearly six feet long, the highly polished surface of Untitled wields a spiritual force with minimum gestures, and is therefore a prime example of the artist’s search for a deeper truth of art and perception.

Untitled is one of Judd’s most iconic “progression” sculptures, created from 1964 into the 1970s, in which the artist chose his medium based on the date of production and used mathematical patterns like the Fibonacci Sequence to discern the object’s segmentation. Even within those predetermined criteria is a great deal of subjectivity. As critic and architect Julian Rose writes of Judd, “He explored both the absolute truth of mathematical progressions and the contingency of embodied experience” (J. Rose, “There is No Neutral Space: The Architecture of Donald Judd, Part I,” Gagosian Quarterly, Summer 2022, n.p., https://gagosian.com/quarterly/2022/05/11/essay-there-is-no-neutral-space-the-architecture-of-donald-judd-part-1). In this way, Untitled activates and references the body and the mind alike, drawing the viewer into its copper sheen.

Lustrous color plays a significant role in the present work. Here, copper, ancient and unyielding, is a totemic medium that comes alive with an earthy, incandescent pattern of ‘progressions’ in increasing sizes. Even in its mathematical precision, Untitled is abstract and poetic, like sheet music that provides structure to expression and improvisation. As art historian Rosalind Krauss theorizes, “One is totally unprepared for the beauty of [Judd’s] sculptures themselves” (R. Krauss in A. Ochmanek and A. Kitnick, eds., October Files: Donald Judd, Cambridge, 2021, p. 5). There is likewise a pathos to Untitled as it extends laterally like expectant arms. The expanse of each industrialized section recalls the passing of years and the widening of a life from birth to death as we gain experience and knowledge. It is an acceleration, longed for when we are young and dreaded when we are old. Yet these emotional possibilities in Untitled are kept in check by Judd’s nearly scientific handling of its copper, which leaves the viewer room to free associate or to allow the work to exist for itself.

Judd wove this generosity of interpretation into his art and life, which were doubtless intertwined. After serving in the army and starting out with expressionist painting, Judd turned to sculpture and developed his Minimalist style around 1963. He pioneered a renewed avant-garde in sculpture alongside Dan Flavin, Jasper Johns, and Lucas Samaras, who all conjured novel ways of thinking about sculpture and its relationship to the viewer and the viewing space. It is impossible to summarize Judd’s innumerable exhibitions, public collections, and commissions. Most recently he was the subject of a critically acclaimed 2020-2021 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Perhaps his most important contribution to art history in addition to his artworks is the Judd Foundation at 101 Spring Street in New York, which welcomes the public from around the world to learn more about his career while supporting scholarship on Judd and his contemporaries. He was also an engaged advocate of land preservation and political activism. Additionally, Judd, as much a writer and critic as an artist, often theorized his and his contemporaries’ work. He resisted the categories applied to art, like Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism, and, tellingly, Minimalism. While writing against the dogmatism of the art of his era, he wrote, “The history of art and art’s condition at any time are pretty messy. They should stay that way. One can think about them as much as one likes, but they won’t become neater; neatness isn’t even a very good reason for thinking about them. A lot of things just can’t be connected” (D. Judd, “Local History,” New York, 1964, n.p., https://juddfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/page/writing/Local_History_1964.pdf).

As evinced by the present work, Judd was driven to see how now ways of seeing could be drawn from established principles and formulas. Even though Untitled appears to evoke neatness and regimentation, Judd also argues that the histories of art with which his sculptures intersect cannot exist seamlessly, even if the surface gleams with metallic unity. For no life or object moves through time without gaps, and there is always the surprising possibility of disorder within order. From this in-between space, revolutionary art emerges. Extending into the future and reaching back through the past along a luminous horizontal plane, Untitled is a polished timeline brimming with possibilities.
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