Donald Judd is widely regarded as one of the most influential American artists of the post-war period. He is considered responsible for changing the course of modern sculpture and providing Minimalism with its first formal articulation. “Three dimensions are real space,” Judd explained. “Actual space is intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface.” In 1964 Judd began consigning the production of his sculptures to industrial fabricators—a revolutionary practice at the time when evidence of the artist’s hand was still paramount. He preferred industrial materials (anodized aluminum, galvanized iron, stainless steel, Plexiglas, and plywood) and simple geometric forms over paint and formal subjects for their lack of historical significance and their economy. He created freestanding volumetric works and “boxes” that projected from the wall, relying on an expanded vocabulary of orientation, scale, and volume. Judd believed in the work of art as a complete whole that does not require additional elements—like subject or narrative, for instance—to deserve contemplation. Floating and isolated, Untitled (Menziken 91-143), 1991 is entirely self-referential, paying little attention to its surroundings, absorbing light into its black Plexiglas interior. Menziken boxes, like many of Judd’s works, are a series in which only the interior varies. The color and division of space changes from piece to piece, while the exterior remains static. Judd said of these works, “The box with the plexiglass inside is an attempt to make a definitive second surface. The inside is radically different from the outside. Whilst the outside is definite and rigorous, the inside is indefinite.”
Donald Judd was born in 1928 in Excelsior Springs, Missouri and moved to New York in 1949 as a student and an artist and critic. The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, organized the first retrospective of his work in 1968. In 1971 he participated in the Guggenheim International Award exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, along with other Minimalist and Conceptual artists. He participated in his first Venice Biennale in 1980, and in Documenta, Kassel, in 1968 and 1982. Judd also published a large body of theoretical writings, which were consolidated in two volumes published in 1975 and 1987. Donald Judd died on February 12, 1994, in New York.