"Material, space, and color are the main aspects of visual art. Everyone knows that there is material that can be picked up and sold, but no one sees space and color. Two of the main aspects of art are invisible; the basic nature of art is invisible"-Donald Judd
Donald Judd's work from the 1960's, which he would elaborate over the remainder of his working career, consists of a few basic forms. Wall sculptures and free-standing boxes were his two defining shapes,-- Untitled (DSS 155) is an extraordinary example of the latter.
One of the Judd's central ideas was to take sculpture, literally, off its pedestal and put it directly on the floor. Although Judd had done some shaped "containers" in 1962, his first true box floor sculpture dates from 1963, in which he took a hollow box, painted red and inserted an iron pipe along the top inside a groove.
In 1964, Judd created his first floor boxes using Plexiglas and stainless steel. Prior to that, he had used Plexiglas in his wall progressions in which the reflected light would cast an evocative halo on the surrounding wall. Untitled (DSS 155) moves the halo off the wall and onto the ground, with its oversized scale creating a luminous environment in any room it occupies. "Color and three-dimensional space were placed directly on the floor, as one. Neither existed before. A direct relationship to the supporting structure had not existed before. Despite some geometric painting in New Yorkthe geometry, color, space and the relationship to the support were completely new. My attitude toward geometry was new" (D. Judd: Colorist, Hannover, 2000, p. 111).
Untitled (DSS 155) is constructed in a brilliantly direct manner, using only the central stainless steel "tunnel" form, three sheets of fluorescent red Plexiglas and a small number of screws and pins. The steel form has a series of tabs at its tops and sides, into which the Plexiglas is screwed into and rests. The three Plexiglas sections are also attached to each other-the artist has hollowed out a small number of holes into which small pins are inserted.
Throughout the sixties, Judd played with the space and volume in a wide range of floor boxes. At times they are dense objects that are solid painted objects and others are weightless, as when he created the open construction "box" that consists simply of iron pipes and fittings. In some, Judd creates a groove in the top of the box which is slivered into sections, and others, he creates a box-like shape from frame-like slivers arranged along the floor. To many, the apotheosis of Judd's career is a grouping of 100 large stainless steel floor boxes, no two alike, in specifically designed spaces in two artillery sheds in Marfa, Texas.
Untitled (DSS 155) is a brilliant example that conflates density and lightness, translucent color and steel. Judd concretely articulates the interior section with steel which contrasts with the ephemeral space created around it by use of the Plexiglas. Indeed, Judd's use of colored Plexiglas allowed light to play a dramatic role. When lit properly Untitled (DSS 155) glows radiantly and the edges where the Plexiglas meet are so crisp and bright that they appear to be lit from within. The Plexiglas' cast light calls to mind the work of Judd's close friend, Dan Flavin. It is interesting to note that this work was created the same year as the birth of Judd's son, who he named Flavin Starbuck Judd.
The form of this sculpture was first used in 1968, when he executed one in amber Plexiglas, which is now in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Over the next year, he would execute five additional examples, each in stainless steel and a different color of Plexiglas (green, blue, yellow, red fluorescent, yellow fluorescent) and later return to it in 1973 to make one in brass and blue Plexiglas (formerly in the Panza Collection, Milan and now in the Guggenheim Museum, New York). Judd often would take the same form and realize it in different colors over time, a function not only of his use of color, but also the realities of the production schedules which took place over time.
Space, form, composition-Judd's ambition was no less than to make a pure art that would re-invent these concepts in a fresh and direct way. Untitled (DSS 155) is a supreme example his ability to succeed in doing so, in a way that continues to resonate to artists today.
Installation view of the exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, February-March 1968 c Judd Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Donald Judd at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 1970
Donald Judd, Untitled, 1968 Whitney Museum of American Art c Judd Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY