New York

Donald Judd

Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

Donald Judd’s artistic project seems increasingly to depend upon the temporality of perception and experience rather than the immutability of objects. Regardless of their emphatic materiality and simplified modular construction, both his outdoor work at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, and his recent indoor sculptures seem calculated to destabilize the viewer’s experience of their seemingly static quality as objects. Situated in a vast open field, one outdoor installation of 15 large sculptures, each comprised of two or more rectangular concrete boxes, constantly changes as the sun moves across its surfaces. Though each box is identical in material and proportion, the arrangement of the individual clusters and the variations upon which sides are left open, creates a visual dynamic suggesting a landscape of haystacks by Monet. A collage of cast shadows, dark voids, and planar surfaces, the installation’s relationship to the viewer is constantly in flux.

In the current show three large, highly polished, open-topped aluminum boxes take on a transient effect as they vibrate with interior color. From afar, the interior walls of one piece (all works untitled, 1989), in which a sheet of orange Plexiglas lines the floor, radiate reflected orange light. As one approaches to look into the reflective pool, one receives a concentrated shot of fiery color.

In another work, two interior walls divide the box into individual compartments. One is made of silver aluminum and the other of blue anodized aluminum. The suspended blue wall does not reach down to the box’s floor, which is covered with orange Plexiglas on one side and black Plexiglas on the other. More nuanced than the all-orange interior of the former work, here the reflections on the orange side modulate between degrees of orange and blue depending on the viewer’s vantage point, while the black half is strangely mute, absorbing rather than reflecting light. These works are as much about the shifting perspectives of light that occur when approaching or walking around them as they are about the materials of their construction. Considered in light of the installation in Marfa, one realizes that Judd is using color here not as a fixed material but as a fluctuant property that transforms the rigidity of the angular aluminum structures. With this installation of three boxes, Judd affirms both the impermanence and mutability of perception and the relative nature of art’s objecthood.

Kirby Gookin