• Untitled, 1964.

    Untitled, 1964.

    Donald Judd

    Kunstmuseum Basel | Gegenwart
    St. Alban-Rheinweg 60
    September 5, 2004–January 1, 2005

    K20 Grabbeplatz
    Grabbeplatz 5
    June 1–September 1, 2004

    Tate Modern
    February 5–April 25, 2004

    Curated by Nicholas Serota and Marianne Stockebrand

    In recent years, the Minimal installation initially developed by Donald Judd (1928–94) and others in the early ’60s, consisting of simple, whole shapes calibrated to the experience of a body, has transmogrified into a spectacularized encounter. The precise relationship between artwork, gallery, and viewer, once known as scale, rarely obtains in those purported temples of Minimalism, the Guggenheim Bilbao and Dia:Beacon, where the orchestration of a giganticist aesthetic intended to dominate and impress, in distinct opposition to Minimalism’s body-based phenomenology, has found its apotheosis.

    Organized by Tate director Nicholas Serota in consultation with Chinati Foundation director Marianne Stockebrand ten years after Judd’s death, this exhibition could not come at a better time. What will undoubtedly be a sensitive installation—the rather unexquisite Tate Modern interiors notwithstanding—by two curators who worked closely with the artist may serve to remind us why we should still care about Minimalist practice. While not the full retrospective Judd deserves (the artist’s oeuvre included painting, printmaking, architecture, and furniture design), this show, comprising about forty works in all, promises a rigorous exposition of his most important contribution: the Specific Objects he produced from 1962 until 1994. Famously defined by Judd as “neither painting nor sculpture,” the object was not a media hybrid as we might assume but, as Thierry de Duve has insisted, a radical negation of these categories. Judd, unlike those of his peers who described their work as sculpture, developed his version of Minimalism on the basis of his dissatisfaction with what he felt to be modernist painting and sculpture’s inherent illusionism. Inspired by the wholeness, vivid color, and bodily scale of the paintings of Newman and Rothko, he brought these innovations into “real space” while avoiding the relational aesthetic of Abstract Expressionist sculpture. His search for the Specific Object was relentless, requiring the enlistment of fabricators as early as 1964 and a growing cadre of manufacturers and artisans in the United States and Europe in the ’70s and ’80s. In his later work, Judd developed new forms or inflected old ones in new materials. The restricted palette of his youth gave way to polychromy and variation, and the work became more composed than he cared to admit. His is a complex story, one that Serota, Stockebrand, and fellow catalogue contributors David Batchelor, Richard Shiff, Rudi Fuchs, and David Raskin are more than qualified to tell.

    James Meyer

    Travels to the K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, June–Sept.; Kunstmuseum Basel, Sept.–Jan. 2005.