"It isn't necessary for a work to have a lot of things to look at, to compare, to analyse one by one, to contemplate", Judd had written in his seminal essay "Specific Objects" in 1965. "The thing as a whole, is what is interesting. The main things are alone and are more intense, clear and powerful." For this reason Judd's "Stacks" - which the artist first began to develop in 1966 - are widely regarded as being Judd's "breakthrough" works, for in them he developed for the first time, the simple and elegant mathematical language that would characterise and define all his subsequent work.
The "Single Stack" which Judd first began to make in 1964 is the prototype for these seminal works and an iconic symbol of all that Judd believed to be central to his art.
Judd believed that the thing itself was what was important in a work and that nothing should detract from the work's representation of itself. Towards this end he was one of the first artists to insist on having all his works made by industrial means and to use only cold impersonal industrial materials. Only in this way, he believed, could he achieve the absolute precision necessary for his work to be seen only for what it was and not for the craftsmanship or means by which it had been made. Similarly, a simplicity of form was required in order to explain his ideas in the most direct and non-elaborate way. The open box was the perfect structure for Judd, in that it intersected in the simplest way, all sculptural notions of space, by being simultaneously both an enclosed and an open form.
The box suited Judd because the "image, all of the parts, and the whole shape are co-extensive" Judd declared, and consequently no hierarchy is involved in its formal properties. This quality of the box is also extended in this work by Judd's pioneering use of Plexiglass. "The use of Plexiglass" Judd explained in 1971, "exposes the interior, so the volume is opened up...It is fairly logical to open it up so the interior can be viewed. It makes it less mysterious, less ambiguous. I'm also interested in what might be called the blank areas, or just plain areas, and what is seen obliquely, so the colour and the plane and the face are somewhat obscure to the front. It's the other way round when seeing the side. In most of my pieces there are no front and no sides - it depends on the viewing position of the observer." (Interview between John Coplans and Donald Judd reproduced in Don Judd exh. cat. Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena,1971, pp. 36-7)
This work was acquired directly from the artist in 1968 by the present owner shortly after Judd's retrospective exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. It has been in the same private collection since then and only exhibited once. The work is one of relatively few actually signed by the artist, and according to the catalogue raisonné was fabricated perhaps as early as 1966.