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    Judd's Twilight Quest for Perfection
by Charlie Finch
 
     
 
Donald Judd
Untitled
1991
(detail)
 
Installation view of Judd's 1998 untitled sculpture of anocized aluminum and red and black Plexiglas (left) and his 1991 work in Douglas fir plywood and Plexiglas
 
Detail view of Judd's untitled 1991 sculpture
 
"Donald Judd: Late Work"
at PaceWildenstein
 
Donald Judd
Untitled
1992
 
"Donald Judd: Late Work," Oct. 13-Nov. 11, 2000, at PaceWildenstein, 142 Greene St., New York, N.Y. 10012.

"Donald Judd: Late Work" is a welcome antidote to the careless chaos of the Damien Hirst carnival, which has sucked the attention from some excellent shows this fall, such as Jane and Louise Wilson at 303 and Charles Spurrier's brilliant new work at Feigen Contemporary.

The enigmatic Judd pieces at PaceWildenstein downtown (a companion show opens this week at Pace's 57th street space), conceived between 1988 and Don's death in 1994, challenge all one's assumptions about Judd's work, specifically its inertness and concretism.

A series of waist-high aluminum cubes express a complex interplay between order and chance in the different shapes and configurations of totemic, vertical dowels within each piece.

Circling them, one envisions the clean synapses of a clear brain at work, making one crisp decision after another, always in service to the Cartesian whole. The multiple visual options created recall the mind teasers of 1950s probability guru Johnny von Neumann.

Contrast these cold, integrated kennels with Judd's warm wall boxes, perfectly installed and lighted by Arne Glimcher's crew, which emanate a Native American color spectrum of maize, indigo, and azure.

In their aloof, jaundiced fashion, these stacks gently satirize the object fetishism of consumer America. They tell us that our experience with boxes is always reduced or exalted to a platonic ideal.

It is the winning paradox of Judd's humble work that the stars always look back at us from within each piece. Robert Irwin's and James Turell's beautiful light pieces seem grandiose and theatrical by comparison.

Donald Judd brought to his work the methodical universality of the American farmer, rotating his object crops with increasing refinement until he died.

Experiencing his last work at Pace gives the viewer a glimpse of immortal permanence, however illusory.

Even genius cannot save us.


CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).