“There are a lot of rectangles in the world and one that I have made exists as one of them. The idea of a rectangle exists only as an idea, which is easy for rectangles and difficult for most ideas.”
—D. JUDD,‘Some aspects of colour in general and red and black in particular’, in Donald Judd Colorist, Ostfildern-Ruit 2000, p. 111
Donald Judd’s Untitled 1985 is characterised by the interaction of monochromatic rectangular units composed in tones of red, pewter, and black. The rectangular blocks are stacked with rigid regularity, despite their differentiating volumes, to form a tunnel mounted to the wall. The use of individual flat colours, a signature aspect of Judd’s oeuvre, forms the organizing principle of the work. Judd handles the arrangement of colour with a mathematical acuity, deliberately coordinating the sculpture so that no rectangular colour block falls in tandem with a unit of the same colour. The stringent geometry of Judd’s forms creates spatial clarity that enables the viewer to concentrate upon the interplay of colour and architectural space. Judd’s rectilinear system creates depth, and casts shadows that impact the compositional tones and surface. These shadows and the structure engage the space surrounding the work. Judd constructs his sculpture using traditional industrial materials, removing all trace of the artist’s hand. Each block is formed with aluminium coated in enamel paint and connected by slotted hex washer bolts—materials that are characteristic of Judd’s works during this period. Since 1984, Judd has used aluminium sheets enamelled in colours derived from the commercial colour chart as a means to explore the physical expression of colour. In this particular work Judd uses a red enamel, which he classifies as a ‘tough’ colour for its ability to define contours, in order to emphasize the angularity of the aluminium sheets. Judd elaborates on the significance of his chromatic scheme, stating that ‘[b]y definition, the images and symbols are made by institutions. A pair of colours that I knew of as a child in Nebraska was red and black, which a book said was the ‘favourite’ of the Lakota. In the codices of the Maya, red and black signify wisdom and are the colours of scholars’ (D. Judd, ‘Some aspects of colour in general and red and black in particular’, in Donald Judd Colorist, Ostfildern-Ruit 2000, p. 116).
Judd’s compelling abstract sculpture is based upon his rejection of illusionism and representative art. By rejecting pictorial representation and conceptual themes Judd creates an autonomous sculpture that forces the beholder to focus solely upon the object’s formal characteristics. Although his ethos and purified sculptural form correlates to the Minimalist Art movement of the 1960s, Judd has claimed independence from the group in multiple writings. Judd’s sculpture is a comprehensive study of space, material, and colour; the three constitutive features that form his revolutionary approach to art. His technique first developed in the 1960s remains innovative in its use of industrially manufactured materials, emphasis on physical structure and surrounding space, and rejection of theoretical readings. Untitled 1985 incorporates these fundamental elements in its simple chromatic scheme, austere geometry, and objectivity, resulting in an apparition of extraordinary spatial presence.