[Various untitled works (1989), anodized aluminum clear with Plexiglass.]
When Donald Judd died in 1994, there was a no more vigorous proponent of Minimalist art in the United States—though he just as vigorously eschewed the term. Beginning his artistic practice as a painter in the late 1940s, Judd’s first solo exhibition—of expressionist paintings—opened in 1957. As he explored the woodcut medium from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s, Judd moved increasingly from figurative to abstract imagery. Starting by carving organic round shapes and shallow reliefs, he evolved ever more toward painstakingly straight lines and angles. One of the most significant American artists of the post-war period, Judd’s unaffected and straightforward oeuvre demonstrated an instinctive energy toward color, form, material, and space. Going beyond the creation of work that assumed direct material and physical presence, Judd felt no obligation toward overriding philosophical “statements.” Furthermore, Judd avoided cliché representational sculptural ideas—instead creating a rigorous visual vocabulary and seeking clear and definite objects to articulate. Five decades ago, Judd commenced to create freestanding works using such “elemental” materials as plywood, steel, concrete, Plexiglass, and aluminum. Creating declaratively simple and fundamental sculptural forms, Judd would arrange his works—often in the shape of boxes or stacks—according to repeated or sequential progressions.
This show—up at David Zwirner Gallery through June 25, 2011—presents seminal works drawn from Judd’s 1989 exhibition at the Staatliche Kunsthalle (Baden-Baden). Brought together for the first time since that event, these works have been drawn from private and public collections internationally. Spanning both of David Zwirner’s spaces at 525 and 533 West 19th Street, this exhibition reflects the clarity and rigor Judd intended in this installation. The galley’s inaugural exhibition of the artist’s work since obtaining exclusive representation of the Judd Foundation, the works included herein comprise one of Judd’s few explorations of color on a large scale using anodized aluminum. Indeed, the historic 1989 Kunsthalle exhibition of these 12 identically scaled anodized aluminum works was significant in that it marked the first time Judd used that colored material in such scale. Viewers are given a powerful vantage point from which to investigate these truly focused examples of Judd’s practice.
While Judd had previously examined the qualities of an open box form, works created for the groundbreaking 1989 exhibition display distinctive systematic approaches in determining each box’s interior space. In turn, Judd divided each box vertically into different spatial configurations—while sometimes introducing color through anodized elements or sheets of Plexiglass in blue, black, or amber. Resultant combinations of materials, dividers, and colors—varying from box to box—determine each work’s singular nature within a finite number of possibilities. Thus, each box is an individual work representing just one possibility amid various parameters.
Demonstrating Judd’s visionary approach in use of industrial material—coupled with his unique attitude toward proportion and installation—these works were designed in relation to each other and within the given framework of their design. As an ensemble they present a particularly cohesive perspective of composition and space. Placement of color and other composite elements was part of a larger context for Judd: In presenting these boxes as a group, we are allowed the breath of their intriguing spatial arrangements, colors, and dimensions: This is especially true vis-à-vis the surrounding architectural environment. This show at David Zwirner provides a special opportunity for viewers to experience such a large-scale presentation of a single body of work by Judd. Furthermore, this current installation has been accompanied by catalogue published in collaboration with Steidl (Göttingen)—including new scholarship on Judd by noted art historian Richard Shiff as well as archival material and reprinted interviews with the artist.
The highly articulated work of Donald Judd (1928-1994) has been exhibited internationally for over six decades—in a plethora of formats—at such institutions as Tate Modern (London), K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (Düsseldorf), the Kunstmuseum (Basel), Kunsthalle Bielefeld, the Menil Collection (Houston), the Sprengel Museum (Hannover), Dia Art Foundation (Beacon), The Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), Documenta (Kassel), the Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven), The Panoramas Gallery (New York), The Leo Castelli Gallery (New York), Paula Cooper Gallery (New York), PaceWildenstein (New York), and Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (Nice).
Through June 25, 2011
525 West 19th Street, NYC 10011