Donald Judd - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 15, 2012 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Annemarie Verna, Zurich
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    London, Sprüth Magers Lee, Donald Judd, February 18, 2003 – April 14, 2004

  • Literature

    F. Meyer, V. Rattemeyer, Donald Judd: Räume Spaces, Ostfildern Cantz, 1993, p. 70 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Donald Judd, as theorist and—most importantly as a ground breaking artist—defined the transition between the late Modernism of the New York School and the radicallity of all that has come after. As one of the earliest and most lasting practitioners of minimalism, Judd produced objects that could stand and be judged alone, wrested from the grasp of history. Utilizing the rigid presentation of standardized structures – generally known as – stacks, boxes and progressions, he rejected the illusionism of artistic tradition and instead embraced the steadiness of the geometric form. Judd’s works are emblematic of what we associate as historical Minimalism, his works exploring the central tenets of serialization, elementariness, visual antagonism, and simplicity of production. In Judd’s work, materials vary and remain materials in and of themselves, often industrial in nature or never before used in art. He argued that, “There is an objectivity to the obdurate identity of a material.” New materials, as he called them, were not as accessible as oil on canvas and are hard to relate to one another.

    In the early 1960s, Judd abandoned painting for “sculpture”, solidifying the transition with his manifesto, Specific Objects. In reaction to Abstract Expressionism and through the critical rejection of figurative allusion, Judd created his first “specific object,” a non-referential thing free, as he saw it, from a culture conditioned by the preconceived and the simulated. In a world marked by the visual spectacle of media excess and warfare, where the act of seeing was conditioned by the rhetoric and marvel of consumer culture, Judd struggled to find a way to create objects that could be seen to exist beyond or above existing definitions and experiences. His seemingly expressionless, machine-like objects greatly depended on the viewer’s participation with them thereby offering the possibility of unbounded experience and interpretation.

    In Untitled 90-9 Donaldson, 1990, Judd creates a familiar progression in corten steel and brown Plexiglas. Here, the work assumes the uncanny horizontality of a painting, with the repetition of four separate boxes displayed at length across the span of one wall. Arranged in succession, the viewer is compelled to walk from side to side, while the eye scans the top, sides and insides of the boxes, in part, to observe the undeniable effect of the Plexiglas that connotes the kind of spatial quality intimated by painting. Juxtaposed against the opacity of the weathered steel, the color of the light reflecting Plexi allows the eye to travel father in where perhaps there is no where else to go. Unlike painting where space is conceived of by layering different colors on the same surface, Untitled 90-9 Donaldson, 1990, does so through the tangibility of real space as light reflects from one side of the box to the other, paradoxically rendering, a depth greater than that of the box itself. Judd has described his three-dimensional
    work as, “A single thing, which is open and extended, more or less environmental.” Like other three-dimensional art, such as Duchamp’s readymades, Judd’s works are meant to be seen at once, and not as he has suggested, “part by part.” His use of the reflected colored surface brings to mind, the infinitely spatial quality of Reinhardt’s flat paintings. In his discussion of painting, Judd wrote, “In Reinhardt’s paintings, just back from the plane of the canvas, there is a flat plane and this seems in turn indefinitely deep.”

    The artist himself has stated that although his objects resemble sculpture, they are in fact, nearer to painting. The tension in his work perhaps lies in his rigorous aesthetic doctrine that offers very little, but experientially infers so much more. While other artists during the early nineties had succumbed to the motifs of cynical realism or new media art, Judd remained true to his insistence for unmediated visual incident. Unlike his canonically large floor pieces, the boxes in this lot, hung above the floor, with their uncharacteristically modest dimensions, are conceivably less confrontational.

    Created four years before his death, this Cor-ten work is unique in that it is among the only works fabricated by the artist at his residence in Marfa. In the last twenty years of his life, the artist housed and maintained his permanent collection of large scale works at his Chinati Foundation, a tract of desert in Marfa, Texas dedicated to preserving his artistic legacy and that of his contemporaries; notably, sculptor John Chamberlain, installation artist Dan Flavin, and Claes Oldenburg.

    At the time of his artistic renaissance, from painter to object maker, an unprecedented foregrounding of the role of the viewer is increasingly necessary, and is possibly one of Judd’s greatest contributions to the development of postmodern art and theory.

  • Artist Biography

    Donald Judd

    American • 1928 - 1994

    Donald Judd came to critical acclaim in the 1960s with his 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. Though associated with the minimalist movement, Judd did not wish to confine his practice to this categorization.


    Inspired by architecture, the artist also designed and produced his own furniture, predominantly in wood, and eventually hired a diverse team of carpenters late in his career.

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Untitled 90-9 Donaldson

Cor-ten steel and brown Plexiglas, in four parts
each: 9 7/8 x 19 3/4 x 9 7/8 in. (25 x 50 x 25 cm)

$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $1,082,500

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

15 November 2012
New York