Untitled, 1964 is a landmark at the advent of Minimalist art and a dramatic statement of Judd's emerging aesthetic practice. This bold structure – in the artist's preferred color of cadmium red – unites painting and sculpture as well as void and form with amazing sophistication, considering its place so early in the artist's career. Untitled is Judd's first unmounted, floor sculpture in sheet metal and amounts to a declaration of a seminal shift in the work of this master of innovation. Judd's first one-man show in New York at the Green Gallery in December 1963 highlighted his first steps toward hybrid forms of painting and sculpture, including wall reliefs and free-standing objects in non-traditional forms. Many of the means and materials used in the works of 1962-1963 were tenuous connections to the realm of the traditional or Modernism innovation – paint, masonite, wood, found objects – mixed with newer more industrial material – iron, aluminum - that would soon take precedence in Judd's first tentative investigations into three dimensions. By early 1964, Judd broke with the hand-made and moved irrevocably to the fabricated, commissioning his works to be constructed by fabricators based on his drawings. In scale, aesthetic presence, grand design and seductive simplicity, Untitled announces Judd's arrival on the New York scene as one of the progenitors of Minimalist art – it was the centerpiece of a group exhibition, Shape and Structure: 1965 at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, which is counted as one of the earliest shows of Minimalism and included works by Carl Andre, Donald Judd and Robert Morris for the first time together.
Judd, much like his contemporaries Andre, Dan Flavin and Sol LeWitt, defined his own individual lexicon of sculptural concerns, adopting a reductive approach prioritizing a triumvirate of essentials, stated in his 1993 essay: ``Material, space and color are the main aspects of visual art.'' (Dietmar Elger, ed., Donald Judd Colorist, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2000, p. 79). In Untitled 1964, Judd had arrived at one of his essential materials, sheet metal iron, now in its pristine form devoid of referential shape (such as pipes) or the subordinate role of support as in 1962's shallow reliefs. When originally working with the fabricators in 1964, Judd covered metal with wood, but soon moved toward pristine sheet metal with a hollow core. Sheet metal bore no trace of the artist's hand and provided a great sense of precision and purity for Judd's reductive forms.
Untitled also introduces a new sense of space into Judd's development as an artist, combining the liberation from the wall with an instinct for three-dimensional displacement. As Judd recalled of this time, ``The work on the floor was not lying flat upon it, therefore it was not low relief on the floor, nor heaped upon it, therefore it was not high relief on the floor. ...My work on the floor was a new form, creating space amply and strongly.'' (Ibid., p. 90-91). While large in scale, Untitled conveys a sense of seeming weightlessness, entirely a bi-product of the elegant oval shape and enclosed void. The earlier, transitional Untitled 1962 was one of Judd's most successful wall relief paintings in which he began to blur the boundaries between painting and sculpture, two- and three-dimensions. Judd used a found object (a Plexiglas yellow letter ``O'') inserted into the textured, painted masonite surface to suggest actual depth, while he heightened the effect with the strong contrasting colors of yellow and cadmium red. Untitled 1964 expands on this theme: ``Using rounded corners, Judd synthesized a rectangular and an oval form. The work is a dual structure, comprised of both the closed ring and the interior negative space which it demarcates.'' (James Meyer, ed., Minimalism, London, 2000, p. 84). Just as the shape of his later signature stacks, and their interval pauses of wall, allow for a soaring quality of light and color in their monumental spaces, Untitled celebrates negative space on an equivalent with the surface and physicality of the metal itself. Conceptual propositions about open/closed and solid/void were a basic Minimalist tenet, explored throughout the 1960s. Judd himself often cited Carl Andre's famous 8 Cuts, 1967, which occupied the entire floor of the Dwan Gallery in Los Angeles. Laying concrete capstone blocks from wall to wall, Andre left 8 open voids or ``cuts'' in the configuration of his eight concrete block Equivalents of the previous year – in effect creating a sculptural solid in 1968 based on his sculptural void of 1967. In Untitled 1964, Judd achieves in a single work the same duality and tension of this most basic of Minimalist tenets.
Untitled completes Judd's trinity of values with Judd's signature cadmium red. As opposed to the rougher surface of his earlier wood objects and textured paintings, Judd could unite color with surface in the sheet metal objects in a most intimate and elemental way, using industrial processes to cover the smooth metal surface with vivid color devoid of detail or texture. As stated in the 2004 catalogue for Judd's retrospective at Tate Modern, ``This was the dominant color in his work until the end of 1964:...Judd favoured this colour because every detail of a painting was so extremely important to him, and light cadmium red showed up edges, lines and textures, unlike black, for instance, which tended to obscure them.'' (Exh. Cat., London, Tate Modern, Donald Judd, 2004, p. 169) Judd always acknowledged that his oeuvre of three-dimensional works, termed by him as ``Specific Objects'', were informed by painting, and his declared ambition was to extend the unity, immediacy, scale and clarity that he found in the works of Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko, in particular. Judd felt color was devoid of illusion and indivisible from the surface and material of his work. In his 1993 essay, Judd declared that ``More than the so-called form, or the shapes, color is the most powerful force. In retrospect, and only so, the expansion of color is logical until the 1960s, concluding with the painting of Pollock, Newman, Still and Rothko. The need for color, the meaning of that need, more than anything destroyed the earlier representational painting, ....Color is an immediate sensation, a phenomenon, and in that leads to the work of Flavin, Bell and Irwin.'' (Ibid., p. 98). One can equally make note of the impactful force of color and shape in Judd's Untitled 1964, an important and early summation of the reductive dialectic by which Judd contributed such remarkable and ground-breaking masterpieces to American art. The artist returned to this form and color in creating two larger versions of this work (15 5/8 x 138 x 117 inches), Untitled, 1965 (Collection of Moderna Museet, Stockholm) and Untitled, 1968 (Judd Foundation, Marfa, Texas).
Light cadmium red enamel on galvanized iron
New York, Tibor de Nagy Gallery, Shape and Structure: 1965, January 1965
Toronto, The Isaacs Gallery, Polychrome Construction: Judd, Weinrib, Burton, Rayner, Snow, Weiland, March 1965
Krefeld, Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Sammlung Helga und Walther Lauffs - Amerikanische und europäische Kunst der sechziger und siebziger Jahre, November 1983 - April 1984, cat. no. 177, p. 94, illustrated in color
Krefeld, Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Schwerpunkt Skulptur, June - October 1992
15 1/2 x 93 x 78 in. 39.4 x 236.2 x 198.2 cm. Executed July 6, 1964. The artist executed two examples of a larger version (15 5/8 x 138 x 117 in.) in 1965 (Collection of Moderna Museet, Stockholm) and in 1968 (Judd Foundation, Marfa, Texas).
Dudley del Balso, Brydon Smith and Roberta Smith, Donald Judd: Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Objects, and Wood Blocks 1960 - 1974, Ottawa, 1975, cat. no. 50, pl. 1, illustrated in color (1964 studio photograph), p. 199, illustrated and p. 287, illustrated (installation photograph at Tibor de Nagy Gallery, 1965)
Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art (and travelling), Donald Judd, 1988, fig. 25, p. 46, illustrated
Kaiser Wilhelm Museum Krefeld, Schwerpunkt Skulptur: Hundertvierzig Werke von achtzig Künstlern, 1950-1990, Bonn, 1992, cat. no. 63, p. 51, illustrated in color
James Meyer, Minimalism, London, 2000, p. 85, illustrated in color and illustrated in color on the back cover and spine
James Meyer, Minimalism: Art and Polemics in the Sixties, New Haven, 2001, p. 118, illustrated (installation photograph at Tibor de Nagy Gallery, 1965) and p. 120, fig. 91, illustrated
Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
Galerie Ricke, Cologne
Acquired by the present owner from the above in November 1971