New York

Donald Judd

Leo Castelli Gallery downtown

For the past few years Donald Judd’s work has also dealt with altering and adjusting the relationship between outside and inside, but since he confines his investigations to sculptural forms, the viewer has something concrete on which to test his perceptions. These forms are, in themselves, less complex than his earlier constructions that explored seriality and progression. Many of these newer works are variations and manipulations of a simple cube.

One of the two in the current show was a reiteration in steel plate of a 1974 plywood work, a 3 x 5 x 5’ cube with its “lid” slanting down into the box from the top of one edge to the bottom of that directly opposite. The two wedges this produces—one of material, the other of space—relate directly to the large installation piece that dominated the exhibition, and which expanded the outside/ inside relationship to include the gallery’s space as well as its own.

It appeared, as one entered the gallery and saw it head on, to be a four-foot-high plywood “fence” stretching the entire length of the room about ten feet from the far wall. Closer inspection, however, revealed a ramp slanting from the top of the fence down to the baseboard at the wall. Though a single structure, it functioned as a two-part piece, thus introducing a degree of illusionism which Judd previously eschewed. This wedge, as the whole structure can best be described, pushed aggressively out into the room, seeming to occupy more space than it actually did. It blocked off the viewer—anything four feet high is large enough to be fairly assertive. It can’t be ignored, stepped over, or even sat on without noticeable effort. And the slanting ramp eliminated any possibility of entering its demarcated territory.

While on the one hand it declared itself quite firmly as a large object, it was also possible to see its function as that of a negative—it stole space away from the gallery, altering its volume and distorting its shape. Thus one could simultaneously be outside it, prohibited by its particular construction from entering, and inside, with the outside being the space which the piece cut off.

The second small work was a plywood box the same size as the steel one; here, however, the “lid” slanted catty-cornered, from one corner at the top to the one diagonally opposite at the bottom. The other two corners of the lid touched at points which were one-third and two-thirds of the way down the side of the box. This complicated the inside/outside relationships by making them more difficult to read. The clear definition of the wedge-shaped volumes apparent in the first box is confounded by the tilt; though created with meticulous logic, it tends to throw one off balance visually, another instance of an illusionism Judd now seems less vigorous about excluding. This box also invites speculations as to the nature of his next installation piece.

Nancy Foote