Donald Judd


1967 or 1968

Not on display

Donald Judd 1928–1994
Felt-tip pen on paper
Support: 436 × 560 mm
Purchased 1987

Catalogue entry

T04936 Untitled 1967 or 1968

Black felt-tip pen on yellow machine-made wove paper 436 × 560 (17 1/8 × 22)
Inscribed ‘Judd’ b.r., ‘INTERIOR & ENDS STAINLESS STEEL | TWO SIDES AND TOP 1/4" PLASTIC | PLASTIC AND STEEL CONNECTED WITH SCREWS’ towards b.l., with various numbers in various places and ‘68 or late 67’ on back b.l.
Purchased at Christie's, New York (Grant-in-Aid) 1987
Prov: ?Given by the artist to Thordis Moeller, Millerton, New York, year not known; sold Christie's, New York 6 May 1987 (180, repr.)
Lit:Contemporary Art, Part II, sale cat., Christie's, New York, 6 May 1987 (180, repr.). Also repr: Starlit Waters: British Sculpture, An International Art 1968–88, exh. cat., Tate Gallery Liverpool 1988, p.42

This drawing depicts the form of an untitled object which Judd first made in 1968. This object consists of a floor box with stainless steel ends, translucent coloured plexiglas top and sides, a stainless steel inner ‘tube’ and no bottom (repr. Dudley Del Balso, Roberta Smith and Brydon Smith, Donald Judd: Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Objects and Wood-Blocks 1960–1974, Ottawa 1975, p.168, as DSS 128, the letters being the accepted abbreviation of the authors' surnames). The drawing indicates the dimensions of the object in inches and is inscribed with details of the materials used to make the piece. Judd had this piece made in six versions during 1968 and 1969, employing a different colour of plexiglas for each one. In 1973 he had a seventh version made, this time using brass in place of the stainless steel. All the objects were made to the dimensions specified in T04936 (33 × 68 × 48 in). The abbreviation DSS is used throughout this entry to refer to objects included in the catalogue raisonné. Details of the seven versions are as follows:

DSS 128 stainless steel and amber plexiglas 1968

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (Gift of the Howard and Jean Lipman Foundation, New York)

DSS 134 stainless steel and green plexiglas 1968

Private collection

DSS 144 stainless steel and blue plexiglas 1968

Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis

DSS 145 stainless steel and yellow plexiglas 1968

Art Institute of Chicago

DSS 155 stainless steel and red fluorescent plexiglas 1968

Private collection

DSS 158 stainless steel and yellow fluorescent plexiglas 1969

Bayrische Staatsgemäldesammlung, Munich

DSS 291 brass and blue plexiglas 1973

Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, Milan

According to information received from Dr Marianne Stockebrand, Director of the Chinati Foundation in Texas, T04936 was probably made in Judd's studio in New York. It forms part of a group of drawings relating to various objects, executed on identical sheets of yellow paper taken from the same sketchbook, some of which were included in the exhibition of Judd's drawings held at the Kunstmuseum, Basel in 1976 (see nos.204–10 in Donald Judd: Zeichnungen/Drawings 1956–1976; no.207 is listed as a drawing for DSS 128, but it has not been possible to verify whether it was T04936 or another drawing which was exhibited). From 1965 onwards Judd favoured this yellow paper for his drawings, using either the format on which T04936 was drawn or a smaller format measuring 216 × 280 mm (8 1/2 × 11 in). Like T04936, a number of these drawings are dated 1968 or late 1967 on the back by the artist, suggesting that he dated them at a later stage.

T04936 and DSS 128 are from an important phase in Judd's mature development when he began exploring ways of opening up the interior volumes of his three-dimensional objects, using new industrial materials. He first used plexiglas and sheet metal in 1964 in an untitled floor box (repr. Del Balso, Smith and Smith 1975, p.120, DSS 53), but in this and other early pieces the interior of the box remained tightly sealed as well as being rendered invisible by the use of opaque coloured plexiglas. Subsequently Judd used plexiglas for its combined properties of translucence and integral colour, which allowed him to make open, coloured volumes without disguising the inherent qualities of his materials by applying colour on top of them.

It was often Judd's practice to make more than one finished drawing of an object. At least two other fully resolved drawings of DSS 128 exist besides T04936, both of which depict the object from the same angle and in the same detail, although neither appears to be signed. One bears the inscription ‘INTERIOR & ENDS STAINLESS STEEL | TWO SIDES & TOP 1/4" PLEXIGLAS | PLEXIGLAS ATTACHED TO STEEL WITH SCREWS’ towards bottom right (present whereabouts unknown, repr. Don Judd, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York 1968, p.13), while the other is inscribed ‘INTERIOR AND ENDS STAINLESS STEEL | TWO SIDES AND TOP 1/4" PLEXIGLAS, AMBER 242’ towards bottom right (present whereabouts unknown, repr. Don Judd. exh. cat., Pasadena Art Museum 1971, pl.42, incorrectly dated 1965).

A number of drawings of a more preparatory nature than T04936 exist, showing Judd's development towards the form finally used for DSS 128. As early as 1962, Judd was experimenting with the idea of placing a box within a box to construct two volumes, one inside the other. In the drawings from this period the inner tube is often located in the bottom half of the outer box (repr. Basel exh. cat., 1976, figs.27, 29). The sketchy, hand-drawn style of these drawings is typical of much of Judd's drawing from the early 1960s, although another drawing dating from 1962 exists, similar in its rigid geometric execution to T04936, representing this earlier version of the penetrated floor box (Dan Flavin, repr. Don Judd, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York 1968, p.14).

These preliminary sketches or ‘schemes’ as they have been called (see Jochen Poetter, in Donald Judd, exh. cat., Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden 1989, p.34) are the artist's first steps towards the completed object, literally visible manifestations of his ideas. Only those ideas which Judd deemed good or practicable resulted in three-dimensional objects:

things start as ‘ideas’ which are not ideas in a very cut and dried way. They are not very fixed ideas. But I'm always interested in works that can actually be built. And I'm not much interested in those that cannot. I do a lot of sketches of things that will never be built... But I am really interested in the ones that will get built.

(Jochen Potter, ‘Back to Clarity: Interview with Donald Judd’, in Baden-Baden exh. cat., 1989, p.88)

In the catalogue raisonné of Judd's objects, Roberta Smith highlights the importance of the drawings in the overall scheme of Judd's art: ‘Judd's many drawings explain the completeness of the pieces he finally made. This completeness reflects a kind of decision making that begins with the reliefs but which is even more emphatic in his three-dimensional objects. The decisions take place before the objects are made’ (in Del Balso, Smith and Smith 1975, p.22).

Nevertheless, Judd always insisted that each new object was a surprise for him once made: ‘Even if you can plan the thing completely ahead of time, you still don't know what it looks like until it's right there ... it's nothing until it is made visible’ (Bruce Glaser, ‘Questions to Stella and Judd’, in Don Judd, exh. cat., Kunstverein Hanover 1970, p.68).

In comparison to the preparatory sketches, the original role of drawings like T04936 is more ambiguous. Although some would have been created as part of the planning process involved in making a three-dimensional piece, Dieter Koepplin (Basel exh. cat., 1976, p.12) refers to a practice which Judd evolved of making similar drawings as visualisations of already made objects. They might then be given to private collectors or used for exhibition purposes. Judd also used such drawings as his ‘order-forms’ to the factories which fabricated his pieces, although this seems unlikely to have been the case with T 04936 since it remained in Judd's possession after DSS 128 and its subsequent versions were fabricated.

It has not been possible to verify when the drawing left Judd's studio. In a note to the compiler dated 19 October 1994 Thordis Moeller stated: ‘He [Judd] gave it to me as a present or I bought it, I do not remember exactly. The first is more likely.’

This entry has been approved by Dr Marianne Stockebrand.

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996

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