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  • Provenance

    Donald Young Gallery, Chicago

  • Catalogue Essay

    The artistic career of Donald Judd revolutionised approaches and attitudes surrounding the making and exhibiting of art, reintroducing notions of perfection and quality in the production of art. It was in the 1960s that the artist abandoned the practice of painting having recognised that the employment of actual space is intrinsically more powerful than that of paint on a flat surface. Judd made this move from the flat to the three dimensional at a time when there was a growing acknowledgement among other artists of a need to make one self aware of the physical environment and the context of the work, developing an understanding that this is integral to the artistic practice. Judd became known as one of the key exponents of the minimalist movement through his extraordinary use of simplicity, a label that the artist felt uncomfortable sitting within. Admittedly, his work identified with many of the principles that were associated with minimal art- the use of industrial materials in order to create abstract works emphasising the purity of colour, material, form and space – he preferred to categorise his work as the ‘simple expression of complex thought’. One is to think of ‘Minimalism’ as not an artistic style but as a historical movement, it was an outbreak of critical thought and invention in the cavalcade of American
    post-war art.
    When attempting to approach an understanding of Donald Judd’s work, it is important to note his background in philosophy and art history and his work as an art critic between the years of 1959 and 1965.This critical understanding of philosophical theories and his own critical mind became an intrinsic component in the making of his work. Making this move at a time when the idea of quality and perfection were approaching their pinnacle of unpopularity, and were deemed as politically incorrect, evidently, this is a notion that Judd found strong objection with. Talking on the issue of quality, Judd is noted as saying ‘Politics alone should be democratic… art is intrinsically a matter of quality.’ Judd, without any sense of hesitation, moved towards his complete demolition of mediocrity in art, making boundless initiatives towards the absolute ideal of form and the beauty of simplicity. Thus composing a body of work so ingrained in genius that he (and his work) are held at the summit of quality, firmly rooting Judd as an unrivaled icon of the sculptural universe.
    The present lot belongs to Judd’s progression series which are formulated by the application or the strict rules of the fibonacci Progression; a mathematically based sequence in which each number is the sum of the previous
    two: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 and so on. Geometric and fibonacci are clearly schemes, each element or interval increases by a fixed ratio… Judd uses mathematical progressions to arrange things visually without composition.
    A system unifies the piece, but it is the perception of that unity, not the system which is prominent. In the mathematical progressions, with the single exception of inverse natural numbers, the intervals of space increase
    as the sizes of the elements decrease. Intervals and elements become equal units; their opposing rhythms cancel each other and are further stabilized by the continuous tube above or by the box behind them. (P. 25, written by
    Roberta Smith) The fibonacci is a rule that is popular among artist’s and can be found articulated in incredibly varying forms notably the work of Mario Merz showing an ultimately different embodiment of a singular theme.
    It is the use of the systematic and Judd’s amazing ability to strongly adhere to rules in his work that has have the ability to cause his work to seem distant and removed from the viewer, almost as if his work keeps his audience at bay. It is this established distance that is essential in affirming the works artificial posture and purely aesthetic intent, placing the audience in a state of voluntary inferiority, idolizing the sculptural embodiment of perfection. This is a notion that further distances Judd from any concept of democracy in art, this said, the work remains to have a personal involvement for the viewer as does its scale which, is self-sufficient and readable from any distance or at any size. The involvement of the systematic is a theme that is found in the work of many great artists of the time most notably Sol LeWitt, particularly his Variations of a Cube, another example of an artworks ability to simultaneously distance and intrigue.
    “In all cases, each piece is different in different materials, better in some than others, a chance Judd takes with the autonomy he grants his materials. Some of the small progressions in brass or copper seem fractured into smaller planes, destroying their structural clarity and scale; their size can-not sustain the reflectiveness. But in the end the variety and economy of Judd’s materials brings us back to the consistency of his space. It is the
    quality of the space, of the visible static volumes which each arrangement delineates again and again, that is central to the work.”(B. Smith Donald Judd: A Catalogue of the Exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 24 May – 6 July, 1975/Catalogue Raisonne of Paintings, Objects, and Wood Blocks 1960-1974. Ottawa, 1975, pp. 27-28).The present lot is composed of a radiant magenta and orange aluminum perfectly exemplifying Judd’s intrinsic involvement with materials.

  • 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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Red and purple anodised aluminium.
15.5 x 281.3 x 15.5 cm. (6 1/8 x 110 3/4 x 6 1/8).
Incised with the artist's name 'JUDD', dated and numbered '88-29' and inscribed 'JO BERNSTEIN BROS, INC,' on the reverse.

£550,000 - 750,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

18 Oct 2008, 7pm