Donald Judd, b. 1928 in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, d. 1994 in New York City, is regarded as one of the chief protagonists of Minimal Art. Following the presentation of three-dimensional works in 1997, Galerie Bugdahn und Kaimer is now showing a selection from his printed work.
In line with his goal of setting up no reference to reality, but an oeuvre that is itself real as an autonomous entity, he turned from painting and its spatial illusionism early in his career. By way of reliefs, he arrived at his first 'specific objects', where geometry and symmetry become the means of release from composition and its hierarchical order. Besides the stacks, boxes and progressions, his work was later to extend to furniture and architecture. In parallel to all these, Judd continued to work in the print medium and especially the woodcut.
Hung in vertical or horizontal arrangement, the print cycles take up a principle from the wall pieces; but, unlike the sculptural works, in which Judd uses modern technologies and industrial materials in an innovative way, the woodcut seems a comparatively traditional and 'craft' process. The works in the exhibition, all dating from between 1988 and 1994, are also a further example of the great part played by colour in Judd's oeuvre as a whole. He was intensely interested in colour theory. For him, colour was a physical material with its own function and significance. The choice of intense colours and contrasts gave a precise definition of form; and not least, colour was a sensual, aesthetic phenomenon. In his late work the limited colour range cedes to a complex, masterly combination of various chromatic values. In the works shown, the primary colours, yellow, red and blue occur just as do orange, Venetian red, chrome oxide green and black. The artist creates his series of two to ten prints either in monochrome - Untitled 1988 (*PWE 167-176), Untitled 1991 (PWE 219-222), Untitled 1992 (PWE 211-214), or in two or more colours - Untitled 1992-1994 (PWE 259-260), Untitled 1993 (PWE 298-301) and Untitled 1988-1990 (PWE 187-192). The prints being much simpler in composition than the stacks and boxes, the principles of their colour and form are the move evident. The coloured shape, however set down, will relate to the co-ordinates of the sheet of paper that is its support; a frame of colour repeats or enhances the contours of the sheet; in addition, Judd composes a counterpart to each of these statements, reversing the figure-ground configuration. At the same time, the colour frames and fields are interspersed with markings that undermine any illusionistic window effects. This articulating within the composition links the works again to the 'specific objects'. In Untitled 1992 (PWE 211-214), Untitled 1991 (PWE 219-222) and Untitled 1991-1994 (PWE 235-238) the surface is dominated by a homogeneous horizontal field of lines, and structure and symmetry become more important. Untitled 1993 (PWE 298-301), the last edition in the artist's oeuvre to use galvanised iron frames as an integral part of the work, convincingly unites painting, object and print as a single work. A stripe in oil paint of contrasting colour, physical almost to the point of being tangible, has been painted onto the glass of the frame; this layer of colour lies over the plane of the print and produces a spatiality not virtual, but real.
Judd's insistence on the unrepeatable property of the work of art in its own right, that cannot be substituted, has lost none of its topicality. "I am after some particular quality (...) I'm after one thing, one whole thing, which is the work of art"; "(...) the art is a whole thing in itself (...) It's not about something else; it's about itself and its own qualities."
*PWE refers to the catalogue raisonné Prints and Works in Editions, 2nd edition, 1996.