In the 1960s Donald Judd began placing simple geometric boxes directly on the floor or spaced evenly along the wall. In forgoing the pedestal, he engaged viewers in a bodily experience that happened in real time and space. Within a decade he began exploring the contingencies of space and the parameters of perception on broader terms, as in Untitled (slant piece) (1976). This work slowly reveals itself as it is approached. The plywood wall gives way to a sloping plane that divides the gallery into two inaccessible volumes. Originally fabricated for the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York City, the work is adapted to the dimensions of each new
site. The secant angle shifts according to the width of the wooden barrier. While resolutely abstract, Untitled (slant piece) is emblematic of Judd’s belief that “actual space is intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface.”
Judd’s complicated relationship to painting is evident in his many wall-mounted structures and his persistent and varied use of color. Rejecting the proscriptions of both painting and sculpture, he focused instead on three-dimensional objects which, he argued, “can have any relation to the wall, floor, ceiling, room, rooms, or exterior or none at all.” Untitled (1975) and Untitled (1991) both consist of a series of wall-mounted boxes that project into space. To avoid any external references, Judd arranged these structures in non-hierarchical order, respectively using a simple line and grid. In a further attempt to reject the illusionism of painting, Judd incorporated color into these series through the use of Plexiglas—a material that assimilates color as an inherent rather than superficial quality.
Early in his career Judd determined a basic vocabulary of materials and forms that he would use throughout his practice. Judd was interested in developing an aesthetic free from any historical or metaphorical associations. He identified and deployed new industrial materials—such as anodized aluminum, Plexiglas, and plywood—that had no precedent in the visual arts. These were used in the construction of square planes, cubes, and rectangular pipes. Rejecting traditional notions of craftsmanship in favor of an industrial production more true to the nature of his materials, Judd delegated the fabrication of his objects to specialized technicians who followed instructions and sketches provided by the artist.