Donald Judd's formative years between 1961-1968 are his most fecund period. During these eight years, the artist formulated his critical ideas about art and develop the fundamental forms and compositions that would occupy him for rest of his life. Untitled (DSS 107) was first realized in January 1967, when Judd fabricated a small-scale example, Untitled (DSS 98). Measuring 5 x 25 x 9 in., the sculpture approximates the general format of the "bullnose" progression, only the four projecting segments are squared off, like cogs on a gear. Six months later, Judd executed the first large-scale version of this form, Untitled (DSS 107). Almost six feet wide and consisting of ten segments, Untitled (DSS 107), 1967 is a seminal example of Judd's "progression" sculpture.
Judd's first progression dates from 1964, Untitled (DSS 45)-- a small wall-mounted rectangular piece of wood with four rounded (also known as "bullnose") segments protruding from the face, separated at intervals that "progressively" increase while the width of the segments "progressively" decrease (Judd only stipulated that progressions be shown horizontally and that the orientation can be flipped). Judd had been making other sculptural wall reliefs the previous year, but Judd found endless possibilities in this breakthrough form. He followed this first effort with another, related progression, Untitled (DSS 49) consisting of a hand-painted hollow rectangular aluminum element from which "hang" red painted wooden blocks, once again at mathematically determined intervals.
In March of 1964, Judd stopped making his own sculpture by hand and began employing the Bernstein Brothers Sheet Metal Specialties, Inc. to fabricate them. Located just a few blocks from Judd's loft on Third Avenue in New York City, it allowed him to more easily make multiple examples of each form as well as create works on a larger scale. His next few progressions are indeed much larger, such as Untitled (DSS 55), in which there are five thin, seven foot tall hanging elements, with equidistant intervals between them.
Similarly, he created a series of wall progressions consisting of large 30 inch hollow aluminum cubes that visually hang from the thin rectangular bar, such as To Susan Buckwalter (DSS 56). In 1965, he revisited the form of the hand-made sculpture Untitled (DSS 49) and had it fabricated by Bernstein Brothers, with the same palette, but in a larger scale, creating Untitled (DSS 60) and again with Untitled (DSS 68). He also experimented with the proportions of the "bull-nose" and "hanging box" progressions, playing with their height, width and depth and palette, but keeping the same general compositional structure.
Judd was very much influenced by Barnett Newman and Yves Klein's innovative notions about space, as well as their use of the color blue, which is clearly evident in Judd's luxurious blues and reds throughout his oeuvre. Trained as a painter, the problems of color, texture and surface were always paramount in Judd's work, from his early paintings and throughout his sculpture. In the early 1960s, Judd turned away from the expressive brushstroke of Abstract Expressionism and his early paintings and by 1964, his sculpture was being industrially fabricated and painted; Untitled (DSS 107) is a dazzling, metallic blue. Unlike many of the "Minimalist" sculptors like Tony Smith and Robert Morris, Judd embraced color-"Material, space and color are the main aspects of visual art" (D. Judd, as quoted in Donald Judd: Colorist, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2000, p. 12).
Judd also drew throughout his career, creating a body of work that is a fascinating glimpse into the artist's working method. During the early 1960s when Judd was formulating his first three dimensional objects, his ideas poured out of him in the form of a series of drawings. At times functioning as production guidelines and others, as personal artist notations, it would sometimes take the artist years before he could realize the actual sculptures. The form of the present lot appeared as early as 1964 --the drawing makes clear Untitled (DSS 107)'s relationship to other, related progressions.
Judd at 101 Spring St., New York Photograph by Paul Katz
Donald Judd, No. 169, 1964-65