Donald Judd: The Multicolored Works

Donald Judd (1928 – 1994) is widely considered one of the foremost American artists of the postwar generation. His radical redefinition of sculpture into pared-down forms fabricated from industrial materials closely linked him to Minimalism, a style that emerged during the 1960s and 1970s, but which he emphatically refused to associate with his artistic pursuits. While Judd’s acclaim rests on his complex articulation of space, color also played an important role in his work. Judd featured it as a byproduct of the material itself — often through subtle hues inherent in copper, steel, and colored Plexiglas — and not as applied pigment bearing the trace of his hand. Before the mid 1980s, Judd’s chromatic experiments remained largely secondary to his exploration of materials in space, resulting in a body of work that featured no more than one to two colors within a single object.

Judd fundamentally revised his approach to color in 1984, after discovering an industrial process through which thin sheets of aluminum could be bent and enameled into a myriad of hues derived from a standardized, commercial color chart — the RAL. In response, he created an extraordinary body of work that forms the core of this exhibition. Donald Judd: The Multicolored Works offers an unprecedented overview of the artist’s heightened engagement with the subject of color during the last decade of his life. Drawn from public and private collections in Europe and the United States, the exhibition brings together more than 20 three-dimensional objects representing nearly every kind of multicolored work Judd made in terms of size and type. This includes 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 features 30 drawings and collages, which offer visitors an opportunity to witness Judd’s creative process. The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts is proud to present these rarely-seen works on paper from the collection of the Judd Foundation.

Taken together, the works in the exhibition present an unparalleled opportunity to study Judd’s ever-evolving system of complex and idiosyncratic color pairings and variations, which were informed by, but clearly departed from, existing color theories. Judd wrote that the approach to color he adopted in this late body of work was motivated by the desire to

“….use more and diverse bright colors than ever before. … I especially didn’t want combinations to be harmonious, an old and implicative idea, which is easiest to avoid, or to be inharmonious in reaction, which is harder to avoid. I wanted all of the colors to be present at once. I didn’t want them to combine. I wanted multiplicity all at once that I had not known before.”1

This multiplicity is highlighted throughout the show by a rich presentation of works curated by Marianne Stockebrand, former director of the Chinati Foundation. It is engendered by Judd’s unprecedented use of four to eight colors within a single object, in striking and unexpected combinations that bear witness to the intellectual rigor with which he approached the subject of color during the last phase of his career. As the sole venue for this exhibition, the Pulitzer Foundation offers visitors a unique opportunity to encounter a range of works that serve as the fullest expression of Judd’s efforts to bring in line material, space, and color, which he posited as “the main aspects of visual art.”2