PRINT March 1997

Objection Overruled

THIS IS HOW artist and critic Donald Judd at first wished his work to be seen: as pure form without reference. As “object art,” not sculpture, which to him smelled of Cubism condensed. As divorced from use as a solid could be. Not even art critics were allowed to use his pieces—the pieces should use them (and they did).

So what happened? The unavoidable: pure form wound up luring its opposite. How close can an object get to a bookcase, a table, or a desk and still deny it? Too close for comfort. No truly practical design really looks like a Judd: his work was too profligate with ambient space, too resistant to attenuation, beveling, adjustment. Yet each and every piece, because it had to be conceived and constructed basically as all usable things do, ultimately signaled design. The artist himself appeared to know this. How close could he come to furniture? Quite close: editions (multiples,

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