Donald Judd - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 13, 2009 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist; Private collection, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    As both a sculptor and a theorist, Donald Judd is one of the most significant figures in the 1960s’ artistic revolt against the dominance of modernism. Judd helped establish the legitimacy of art forms that departed from the Abstract Expressionist painting canonized by Clement Greenberg. In a 1965 essay entitled “Specific Objects,” Judd helped define the principles behind Minimalism’s defiance of the traditional categories of painting and sculpture: “A work can be as powerful as it can be thought to be. Actual space is intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface…A work need only be interesting.” Judd vigorously believed that Minimalist sculpture consisted of wholly different concepts from earlier Constructivism or rectilinear abstract painting. For him, the significance of a work of art lay not in its status as member of a certain genre; the locus of its significance was rooted instead in the creative process and lay in the attitude with which the ‘specific object’ was made.
    This untitled sculpture embodies the veneration of abstract principles and extreme precision that define Donald Judd’s oeuvre. The work is comprised of repeating quadrangular units that grow progressively larger or smaller as viewer ‘reads’ the work from left to right. In early sculptures similar to this one, Judd used bare galvanized iron to emphasize the neutrality of the form. Progressively, he began to use color, and the work here demonstrates how color and texture serve to emphasize movement and repetition: textural differences between background and foreground elements enhance a sense of progression along proportional adjustments of semicircular protrusions and flat rectangular planes. The use of high color deepens the audience’s sense of movement through space and of the work’s strict internal logic; were the work in all white, the textural contrast between its sculptural elements would have been lessened and the sense of its left-to-right progression undermined. By eschewing representative forms, Judd eradicates any sense of self-expression in favor of abstraction through geometric principles. In doing so, he situates his oeuvre in harmony with Classical and later Renaissance ideals of balance and proportion.

  • Artist Biography

    Donald Judd

    American • 1928 - 1994

    Donald Judd came to critical acclaim in the 1960s with his deceptively simple, yet revolutionary, three-dimensional floor and wall objects made from new industrial materials, such as anodized aluminum, plywood and Plexiglas, which had no precedent in the visual arts. His oeuvre is characterized by the central constitutive elements of color, material, and space. Rejecting the illusionism of painting and seeking an aesthetic freed from metaphorical associations, Judd sought to explore the relationship between art object, viewer, and surrounding space with his so-called "specific objects." From the outset of his three-decade-long career, Judd delegated the fabrication to specialized technicians, eschewing any trace of the artist’s hand. Though associated with the minimalist movement, Judd rejected the term and did not wish to confine his practice to this categorization. 

    After moving to Marfa in 1972, he began drawing plans for the Chinati Foundation, an exhibition space which opened in 1986 to showcase his objects as well as the work of other contemporary artists and is still operating today. In 2020, his revolutionary career was celebrated in a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. 

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Untitled 88-27


Anodized aluminum.

5 x 69 x 9 in. (12.7 x 175.3 x 22.9 cm).

Stamped “JUDD Bernstein Bros. Inc. JO 88 -27” on the reverse.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Contemporary Art Part I

14 May 2009, 7pm
New York