Donald Judd:The Multicolored Works
Curated by Marianne Stockebrand, the former director of the Chinati Foundation, Donald Judd: The Multicolored Works presented the first exhibition devoted exclusively to the group of objects created by Judd between 1984 and 1992 that were characterized by the artist's ever-evolving engagement with the subject of color. Although color had been a significant component in Judd's work from the beginning of his career, he employed no more than two colors in a single object until the early 1980s. By contrast, the body of work he began in 1984 shows a multiplicity of hues, mostly four to eight colors per object, in combinations that are both striking and unexpected. This exhibition represents the first time that these multicolored works were given their due attention.
While Judd's acclaim often rests on his complex articulation of space, color also played an important role in his oeuvre. Judd initially featured it as a byproduct of the material itself—often through subtle hues inherent in wood, copper, steel, and colored Plexiglas—and not as applied pigment bearing the trace of his hand. He fundamentally revised this approach to color in 1984 after discovering an industrial process that enabled him to enamel thin sheets of bent aluminum into a myriad of hues derived from a standardized, commercial color chart. The resulting body of work formed the core of this exhibition.
Drawn from public and private collections in Europe and the United States, this exhibition brought together more than twenty three-dimensional objects representing nearly every kind of multicolored work Judd made in terms of size and type. This included wall-mounted works that range from 60 to 360 centimeters in length, installed at either eye-level or high above ground, as well as one of only six large freestanding multicolored pieces. The exhibition also featured thirty drawings and collages, which offered visitors an opportunity to witness Judd's creative process. Taken together, the works in the exhibition provided an unparalleled opportunity to study Judd's open-ended system of complex and idiosyncratic color combinations, which were at once informed by and independent of existing color theories.
My goals from the start were to show work that is less known and to make the exhibition more of a discovery than is typical for a presentation of Judd's works. The multicolored works are little known and rarely included in exhibitions. You do not often ﬁnd reproductions in the literature. They are not entirely ignored, but they are neglected. The term "multicolored" alludes to the fact that Judd employed in each piece more than two colors, which had been typical up to this point. By contrast, these works, which he ﬁrst began in 1984, were in fact intended to include a great number of colors, though some of them, in the end, featured only one or two.
With the multicolored works, Judd was concerned with both color and space, and the different sizes of their parts allow for different relationships between them. They also illustrate how the perception of a color depends on the size of the ﬁeld that it covers. Considering the multicolored progressions of 90–60–30 cm from 1984, it seems that Judd was surveying how different sizes might affect the appearance, or perception, of a color. Additionally, a progression is a very dynamic form that in itself is interesting, but it becomes even more so in this further developed context.
The multicolored works are as deep as they are high; only their lengths differ. In the case of Judd's stacks, the projections—and the relationships between their heights, depths, and widths—are more extreme. That is, the depth of an element is more than its height, but many other works are more like the multicolored works, with equal relationships between depth and height. While both the progressions and the multicolored works are extreme in their horizontality, they also share an openness which runs through their axes.
I consider the multicolored works to be Judd's attempt to achieve something similarly comprehensive for color as he did for space. I believe that he would have pushed the matter further had he had more time. For me, these works are modern, fresh, lively, enchanting, full of moods and emotions, and musical; it must be wonderful to live with them.
[excerpted from the exhibition catalogue]
Donald Judd by Modern Art Notes Podcast
Curator Marianne Stockebrand.