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Yet Judd's axes don't correspond

with any natural

one to feel all the more acutely the inadequacy of the theoretical line, its failure to measure up (at least in Judd's case) to the power ofthe sculptural statement. In a recent artidedealingwith the phenomenon of object-art, Barbara Rose emphatically recognized the positive qualities, as opposed to the apparent located in a mystical experience: blankness and denial, ofthis art, and suggested that these could be


crystal. The entire box would collapse without the tension of the axes. The five axes are polarized between two stainless steel sides. The inside surfaces of the steel sides are visible through the transparent equally important. Plexiglas. Every surface is within full view, which makes the inside and outside Like many of Judd's works, the separate parts of the box are held together by tension and balance, both of which add to its static existence. A reversible up and down quality was an important feature ofthework International which Judd showed in the VIII what. Both Biennial ofS~o Paulo. It is impossibletotell


, ... the blankness, the emptiness and vacuum of content is easily construed as an occasionfor spiritual

contemplation as it is a nihilistic denial of the world'.'

One cannot here examine this notion as it applies to other sculptors mentioned immediate sensuous completely transcends meaning something by Miss Rose, but at least in the case confrontation, the suggestion that of Judd's work, which both compels and gratifies his sculpture is the occasion for an experience which the physical object does not seem of Judd's art as tenable. Nor does it seem that a description

what is hanging from what or what is supporting inherent in the surface engulfs the basic structure. surface and structure exist simultaneously

Ups are downs and downs are ups. An uncanny materiality in a suspended

condition. What is outside vanishes to meet the inside, while what is inside vanishes concept of'anti-matter' disappearance. to meet the outside. The overruns and fills everything, phenomenon is always the

only in so far as it embodies a

making these very definite works verge on the notion of The important basic lack of substance at the core of the 'facts'. The more

negation of meaning (' ... the simple denial of content can in itself constitute the content of such a work']' arrives at the richness and plenitude of the works which are somehow not shorn and dumb, but, rather, insistently meaningful.

one tries to grasp the surface structure, the more baffling it becomes. The work seems to have no natural equivalent to anything physical, yet all it brings to mind is physicality.
Robert Smithson, Institute

'It is easy to strip language and actions of all meaning and to make them seem absurd, ifonly one looks at them from for enough away ... But that other miracle, the fact'that in an absurd world,/anguage and behaviour do have meaningforthose who speak and act, remains to be understood. '.
To get meaning in Donald Judd's recent work necessarily involves brute description of the objects themselves, but significantly such a description cannot simply rest at an inventory of characteristics, even though


Judd'. Art,

1 Sculptors

(Philadelphia: in Tile

of Contemporary
of Robert Smithson.

1965); reprinted

ec . Nancy

Holt (New York



1979) 21-23.



Allusion and Illusion in Donald Judd


many ofthe sculptors persuaded by object-art maintain that such an inventory does indeed describe all that the works contain. Miss Rose reports that the artists she deals with ask that their sculpture betaken as 'nothing more

Donald Judd has been a major spokesman

for works of art which seek, as their highest attainment, total identity as objects. last year in praise of a fellowsculptor's work, Judd wrote:

than the total ofthe series of assertions that it is this or that shape and takes up so much space and is painted such a colour and made of such a material'. But it would seem that in Judd's case the strength of the sculptures derives from the fact that graspingthe list oftheir physical prope~ies, works by means ofa no matter how complete, is

'Rather than inducing idealization and generalization and being allusille, it excludes. The work asserts its own existence,form and power. It becomes an object in its own right.'
Thus object-art would seem to proscribe both allusion and illusion: any reference to experiences manipulation or ideas beyond the of that work's brute physical presence is excluded, as isany (through the prescribed observation presence) of apparent this presumptive -and transparently associated renunciation as opposed to literal space. With of meaning-tothe sphereof

both possible and impossible. They both insist upon and deny the adequacy of such a definition ofthemselves, because they are not developed from 'assertions' materials or shapes, assertions, about that is, which are given a

priori and convert the objects into examples of a theorem or a more general case, but are obviously meant as objects or perception, objects that are to be grasped in the experienceoflooking at them. As such they suggest in Judd's certain compelling issues. One of the most beautiful of the sculptures (now in the Whitney Museum's recent leo Castelli Gallery show was a wall-hung work collection) which is made [61 mn brushed aluminium violet. Or so it of a long (approximately shorter bars enamelled

reduction of art from the realm of illusion

through illusionism, is characterized ... "

real objects, the art with which Judd is as intentionally blank and and

empty: 'Obviously a negative artofdenial Approaching extraordinary

Judd's latest work from within this frame for the a


of reference, one is totally unprepared

bar, from which, at varying intervals, hangs a series of a deep, translucent appears from the front. The assumption that the

beauty of the sculptures themselves,

beauty and authority which is nowhere described or accounted for in the polemics of object- art and which leads

apparently more dense metallic bar relates to the



startlingly sensuous,

almost voluptuous

lower bars as a

like geometry, but presences'. which Merleau-Ponty rational perspective

The 'lived perspective' laws.


was irrelevant. pieces do not depend to another Thatthis composition essays

In his work of the past few years, as in the forms which of one part on the balance and adjustment

support, from which they are suspended, is an

architectural one, a notion taken from one's previous encounters with constructed objects and applied to this

speaks is very different from the of geometrical

in this show, Judd arrives at sculptural

'What prohibits me from treating my perception as an intellectual act is that an intellectual act would g;asp the object either CIS possible or as necessary. But in perception it is "real", it;s gillen as the infinite sum of Clnindefinite series ofperspeetivClf views in each of which the object is given but
in none of which is it given exhaustively.

for their meaning. departure from traditional modes of is also trueofthe work of Kenneth Noland case composition Is

case. This reading is, however, denied from the side view of the object which reveals that the aluminium bar is hollow (and open at both ends) while the purple boxes below it, which had appeared luminous and relatively weightless, are in fact enclosed, andfurthermorefunction
as the supports forthecontinuous aluminium member. It

has been demonstrated on that painter.' the derivation discarded

by Michael Fried in his various In Noland's

from what Mr Fried has called 'deductive of boundaries boundary within the pictorial given by the physical serve

It was noted at the beginning ofthis discussion



is they that are attached to the wall and into which the square profile ofthe aluminium bar fits (flush with their
top and front sides) com pleting their own Lshaped profile to form an 20 x 20 em [8 x 8 in] box in section. A view raking along the facade of the sculpture, then, reveals one's initial reading as being in someway an illusion; the earlier sense ofthe purple bars' impalpability and luminosity is reversed and a clearer perception of the work can be obtained; but it is still one that is startlingly adumbrated and misleading. For now one sees the work in extension; that is, looking along its length one sees it fn perspective. Thatone is tempted to read itas in p~rspedive follows from the familiar repetitive rhythms of the verticals of the violet boxes which are reminiscent the colonnades of classical architecture or ofthe occurrence at equal intervals of the vertical supporting members of any modular structure. Once again, then, Judd's work makes a referenceto architecture, orto a with the of situation one knows from previous experienceknowledge gained prior to the confrontation object. In this way, it seems to me, Judd brings a reference to a prior experience to bear on the present perception the work. Or, to put it another way, the work itselfexploits and at the same time confounds previous knowledge to project its own meaning. In Renaissance architecture, even spacingofthe colonnade is used to establish as seen in perspective. The harmonious relationships the of

Judd's own criticism would seem to accept only that art which eschews both allusion and illusion. In the case described above the work plays off the illusory quality of the thing itself as it presents itself to vision alone - which it does persuasively from a front view, in seemingto created by its orthogonal of being able to grasp of, the bea series offlat,luminous shapes, and from a raking view, in

field from the one absolute

fact ofth~ picture itself-its

of Noland's painting affirmation decision as the major determinant of the flatness

framing edge. The importance of the divisions of the canvas, entities) within the which would It tactile (or rather than a

to let the shape of the support of an explicit

rests in part on its avoidance

the optical disappearance it and therefore;to awareness structures

dilute the experience merely the attribute sheerly

of the colour by rendering of sculptural Newman


recession - as against the sensation

know it through touch. Thesculpture objects to

visual or optical medium. a precedent

Mr Fried points to the from the early 19505 as structure. which

becomes then an irritant for, and a heightening in the viewer that he approaches

large works of Barnett establishing conjoined Emmerich seemed found

for a wholly optical statement upon, deductive at the Andre by the painter which

make meaning of them, that when he grasps real he does so as meaningful, whole presences. what is undoubtedly the most serious of modern (as ofthat of the development In constructing

with, or dependent

In Noland's

most recent exhibition

Gallery, a typeofpaintingemerged to me to come from decisions

and fruitful description

opposed to simply contemporary)

art, Clement Greenberg

in part question

the import of his earlier work. This type, evenly painted bands, has far greater more

and Michael Fried have insisted on the importance confrontation

in Across Center, a 122-cm [4-ftj-long canvas divided with Newman than anything else Noland had becomes than it had been in of the past 'lear or shape itselfhad a a 6,1-m an

aspect of the artist's endeavour which involves a critical with the most vital work of the recent past. in this sense, in a to the work with which David Smith Judd's present sculpture can be situated, critical relationship

into four horizontal, affinities exclusively

done until now. In AcrossCentercolour the basis of the experience chevron paintings the bounding the diamond-shaped limiting

was involved just before his death in 1965- This is of course not to say that the works contain some kind of veiled allusion to Smith or are only meaningful as seen in relation to his work; they are on the contrary entirely meaningful on their own terms. Judd seems ratherto unrealized. In Smith's late Cub; pieces, especially Cub; XXIV and have sensed in Smith certain sculptural possibilities which were as yet

so, for in those paintings lao-ftj-Iong experience frontally somewhat perspective-a bands diminution sensation expanse

and closing effect on the colour. Movingto by the shape itselfand to promote

of co lour points to a desire to combat in fragment painting in

the limits imposed (from a vantage

of the painting, eitherface-on, point farenough and whole, the intensity reduced) sensation

Renaissance mind seized on the realization that the same theorems of plane geometry unite proportion and perspective, and therefore assumed that a series of subjective viewpoints of a building {say,the sequence as one travels down the colonnaded absolute measurement.' 'San Lorenzo'} would not invalidate an awareness measurable quantities that was involved in the Renaissance rationalization of space through perspective. As was noted before, Judd's sculpture, unless it is seen directly from the front, which is difficult because ofits extreme length, demands to be seen in perspective. work confounds that perspective reading which will guarantee a sense of absolute measurement through proportion, because of the obviously unequal lengths of the violet bars and the unequal distances which separate them. The work cannot be seen rationally, in termsofa given sense of geometrical laws of theorems evolved prior to the experience of the object. Instead, the sculpture can be sensed only in terms ofits present coming into being as an object given 'in the imperious unity, the presence, the insurpassable plenitude which is for us the definition of Merleauthe real'.6In those terms the French philosopher Yet the of seen nave of8ru~elleschi's

away to seethe

of the colours would be

CubiXXVIII, the works consist oflarge stainless steel

cylinders and beams, which make up enormous rectangular 'frames'. Some ofthese frames are emptYi which are set with one and are others contain rectilinearvolumes

or at an angle and therefore promoted the work's apparent

by the hori2:ontal

which seem to increase thus produced,

It was thus an optical space of

in size at the far end of one's vision. The that one cannot know absolutely that one's view is on

broad side parallel tothe viewer's planeofvision

rendered further weightless and immaterial by the finish on the steel: a kind of calligraphic sanding ofthe metal so that the surfaces appear as a flickering, evanescent optical sensation of openness (the view through the subject of the work with an of the denial of the mass that supports them. The works wed a purely frame) that is the presumed

the nature ofthe shape of the painting, always adumbrated, allusive, to an immediate It it interesting at formats

that the work in its entirety is highly with colour alone. which

throws one more surely and more persuasively experience

that both Noland and Judd have arrived

which involve the viewer in an experience an easily cohesive sculptural

increased sense of the palpability and substance

is on the one hand more illusive than that of either a normal easel paintingot more important, sensuosity
1 Barbara 214-17. 2
Ibid, Ibid,

frame. Smith in this way embraced the modality of illusionism within pictorial space from painting, and used this to powerful sculptural advantage. Yet, to Judd, Smith's suspension of planes within the frame, one balanced off of the frame against the other, or even the composition

form, and on the other more immediate neither artistwiU desert

Rose, 'ABC Ar t", Art

than both. But

from within this context of an increased meaning.

53: 5 volume pp.

in AmerfCiJ,

itself of almost arbitrarily combined geometrical segments must have seemed to rob the work of necessary lucidity. Smith's worryingof relationships have appeared between parts must to have clouded overthe experience of the


1965) 57-69.

[See in this

Ponty describes perception which 'does not give me truths

object with a kind of artiness which to Judd's eyes, at least,




and the Novel'.