"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. The thing as a whole, is what is interesting. The main things are alone and are more intense, clear and powerful." (Donald Judd: Specific Objects, 1965)
Executed in aluminium in 1970, this untitled work is one of Judd's early 'Progressions'. The "Progressions" are horizontal works mounted on the wall that develop according to the logic of a simple number sequence, the numbers of which determine the dimensions of the material and space within the work. Judd used three kinds of progressive sequences for these works, the one used in this work is the Fibonacci series, a mathematical progression of numbers that is often mirrored in the natural world. The sequence begins 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 etc with each number being the sum of the previous two in the series. So that the work remains complete and a whole, Judd determined that in his "Progressions" material should correspond to empty space in equal proportion. He therefore constructed the work in such a way that as the dimensions of solid form increases horizontally in one direction, the empty space between each form also increases to the same degree in the opposite direction. In this way the work becomes a union of solid material and empty space harmoniously corresponding with one another within the framework and structure of the work itself.
For Judd, the "progression" was an abstract device that, when developed into the reality of three dimensions in his work, allowed the work to extend in both a natural and an open way; one that laid bare the logic of its own construction. Judd's 'Progressions' are not just physical manifestations of the simplicity and elegance of a mathematical sequence, however, they are, like all his finest works, harmonious resolutions of the three fundamental building blocks - (material, space, colour) - of the "reality" in which we live, encased within one single and self-explanatory idea. For Judd, as he had outlined in his 1965 essay Specific Objects "the image" of a work of art, "all of the parts, and the whole shape are co-extensive". Each element by necessity maintains a symbiotic relationship with each of the others as well as with the whole. The progression itself is like a pulse, an abstract idea that like a central theme, runs through the heart of the work. The permutability in the mathematics of the progression hints at infinite development, while the material form and physical limitations of the work both define, limit and complete it, articulating a contrasting sense of union, oneness and singularity.
This particular 'Progression' with its open rectangular pipe of aluminium running horizontally along a permutational support of purple units that also seemingly invisibly fix the work to the wall, is part of a format that has its origins in the 1964 sculpture To Susan Buckwalter. Judd first began to have his work industrially made according to his specifications in 1964. This method of manufacture endowed his works with the precision, purity and clarity that he believed they required in order to communicate themselves. The sculpture which Judd later dedicated To Susan Buckwalter (an early collector of his work who died in 1965), gave rise to two recurring formats of Judd's work; the "Stacks", and the form of progression that this work embodies. In many ways the "Stacks" with their equidistant vertical spacing of solid/enclosed and open/empty space intersecting the dimensions of the room they inhabit, are the simplest and most eloquent statements of the ideals of Judd's art. Unlike the simplicity of the "Stacks" , this kind of progression is deliberately more sculptural, more personal and individual and, with its deceptive simplicity, also more complex and mysterious. In contrast to Judd's more simplistic box-like structures, the simplicity of the front view of this progression contrasts greatly with the side view where the open square of the aluminium reveals itself to be a hollow pipe and the underlying coloured blocks show themselves to be L-shaped supports. The surprise of this contrast was one that so troubled the critic Rosalind Krauss when she first saw a progression of this kind in 1966 that she was moved to repeatedly write about it from three consistently revised points of view over the next seven years. (see Artforum vol.4, no.9 1966; vol. 10, no. 3 1971; vol. 12, no. 3 1973).
The work that Krauss saw was the "Progression" in aluminium and reddish/purple now in the Whitney Museum of American art, which Judd made in 1966. The colours of the first "Progression" of this kind that Judd made in 1965 was light cadmium red and purple. This was followed by a warm combination of brass with red, a colder blue and galvanised iron, subtle changes of brushed aluminium and the more sensual contrast of aluminium and purple that is exhibited by this work.