‘It isn’t necessary for a work to have a lot of things to look at, to compare, to analyse one by one, to contemplate,’ wrote Donald Judd in his well-known essay ‘Specific Objects’ (1965). And indeed he managed to make what appeared to be the simplest objects interesting. His work questioned traditional notions of artistic creativity and established a new formal canon, resulting in pieces like Untitled (planned in 1968 and remade in 1985), a piece with a laconic form, structurally indivisible and stripped of any contingency of time or process. From his first free-standing sculptures, he chose the basic and immediately evident forms of the cube and the rectangle in order to go beyond the compositional tradition that divides the different parts into dominant and subordinate, arguing that a work is more intense, clear and powerful when it is perceived as a whole, as a unitary form that integrates colour, image, form and surface. His decision to use industrial processes and materials (including stainless steel, galvanised aluminium, brass, methacrylate, and metal paints) was part of the same strategy. He sought to create uniform forms that would neutralise any illusionist or referential effect. As these materials were manufactured industrially, they also subverted the convention of the artist’s originality. Those isolated volumes gave rise to series of structures put together with the repetition of identical elements, symmetrically installed in horizontal or vertical sequences. The impartial order he followed, which is no more than the simple order of ‘one thing after another’, is part of the same strategy that allowed him to avoid hierarchical composition and its inherent subjective component. For that reason, it is clear that, despite their internal differences, none of the four rectangular modules that make up Untitled (1988) attract more attention than any other. As a result, none of them becomes more important. The four volumes, which are open to show a blue methacrylate background and are hung on the wall just below eye level, establish a precise relationship between the space, the scale and the material. Judd specified the exact distance between them: neither too close—so that each one could maintain its individuality—nor too far apart—to avoid the impression of an agglomeration of individual parts. With that arrangement he managed to have the modules considered individually once they had been perceived as a whole. The four are all the same size and are made of the same materials, but each one displays a difference in the internal division of space. When seen within the context of the group, those differences become thematic variations. In Judd’s works there are two levels of perception that are, in a sense, opposed: a conceptual one that takes in the ideal structure—literal, timeless and unchanging—of their geometrical order, and a phenomenological one that provides a variable image and a temporal dimension by creating a situation in the space between the work and the viewer. That situation changes according to the viewer’s movement, which affects the ‘ideal’ structure of the piece with appearances: shadows, highlights and reflections; in a sense, illusory effects that he gave particular emphasis to in the 1980s with his sensual combinations of materials, light and spaces. With these works he was able to integrate subjectivity and idealism in a single piece. Without compromising the supposed materialisation of the existing object, he enabled the viewer to gain a subjective perception of the most basic and sensual elements of art: form, colour and texture.
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