Critics’ Picks

View of “Donald Judd: The Multicolored Works,” 2013.

St. Louis

Donald Judd

Pulitzer Arts Foundation
3716 Washington Boulevard
May 10 - January 4

In the first exhibition devoted to Donald Judd’s late-career focus on color, the Pulitzer Foundation gathers some twenty sculptures and thirty works on paper to showcase the artist’s notable departure from using no more than two hues per object. Working with his customary industrial forms and materials, Judd employed fabricators to bolt together open-faced aluminum boxes enameled in shades of yellow, orange, red, purple, blue, green, gray, and brown, as well as in black and white. Judd said at the time that his goal was to create balance—to achieve color combinations neither too pleasing nor too jarring. The overall effect here is a Lego-like sense of fun.

Two sculptures (all but one are wall-hung rectangles), both from 1989, present monochrome fronts with different colors peeking from the sides, top, and bottom. Some form rhythms of repeated colors, similar values, and near-matching hues such as purple and brown, subtle pairings and patterns that the artist negotiated in number-scrawled sketches and paint-swatch collages. Other sculptures defy any hint of a system, reveling in the pleasure of sheer aesthetic arrangement. The show’s single floor piece, Untitled, 1989, seems to feature Judd’s entire palette: Nearly twenty-five feet long, it dominates the Pulitzer’s vast main gallery like a behemoth toy box.

Inevitably, the union of the work on view by the late Minimalist artist and the foundation’s architecture by Tadao Ando heightens considerations of site. For his wall pieces, Judd assembled the boxes to create interior openings: Those at eye level have horizontal corridors and those above have vertical channels. All allow the viewer to peer through in some manner, visually connecting the objects to their environment. Here, that includes the Pulitzer’s permanent Ellsworth Kelly wall sculpture, Blue Black, 2001. Guest curator Marianne Stockebrand smartly confronts the imposing twenty-eight-foot-tall Kelly with a long Judd that incorporates, among other colors, similar tones of blue and black. The juxtaposition marks the generational connection between the two artists and inspires a satisfying game of close observation.