Donald Judd (1928-1994)
Property from the Collection of Max Palevsky
Donald Judd (1928-1994)

Untitled, 1984 (84-85 Ballantine)

Donald Judd (1928-1994)
Untitled, 1984 (84-85 Ballantine)
Douglas fir plywood
two units--each: 39 x 39 x 13 1/8 in. (100 x 100 x 33.3 cm.)
Executed in 1984. (2)
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 1984
A. Betskey, Three California Houses: The Homes of Max Palevsky, New York, 2002, p. 126 (illustrated in color).


Donald Judd used industrially produced plywood in Untitled, 1984 (84-35 Ballantine), which fits perfectly with his primary interest in surface and structure. The composite material manufactured from Douglas fir produced a richly grained rough surface, which exudes both warmth and texture. Fabricated specifically for Max Palevsky, Untitled, 1984's two-meter square boxes compartmentalized into thirds (or parts thereof) find Judd precisely interpreting space and volume. Diagonal planes bisect the two boxes' interior space, signifying Judd's increasing desire to communicate that logical art did not necessarily make visual common sense. Throughout his career, Judd keenly explored the visual possibilities of juxtaposing surfaces. With the present lot, the spaces he created by the slicing the interiors into opposite yet complimentary volumes reflect his long-standing belief that too many elements would imply an underlying order in the world.

Plywood's industrial nature also helped Judd distinguish his work from the tradition of domestic wooden furniture. Judd designed the present work to be on installed on a wall, because he wanted at all costs to avoid tempting the viewer to associate it with any practical use. Constructing these forms from industrial, mass produced materials, Judd separated them from any connection with the fine walnut and cherry finishes and veneers associated with large wooden objects in domestic settings. Similarly, he made visible the joints he used in constructing this work, as a junction of two unrelated sections.

Judd investigated the different aesthetic values of the materials he used, and this became a more and more important part of his work. He used unpainted plywood beginning in 1972, and although its appearance appealed to Judd's unrefined aesthetic, its soft surface and warm tones were less rigorously precise than the refined metal of his earlier work. Untitled, 1984 (84-35 Ballantine) is a late yet prime example of Judd's work with plywood. This material enabled Judd to execute what he called his "three dimensional objects". "Three dimensions are real spaces," he wrote, "that gets rid of the problem of illusionism and of literal space, space in and around marks and colors...Obviously, anything in the three dimensions can be any shape, regular or irregular, and can have any relation to the wall, floor, ceiling, room, rooms or exterior or none at all...The thing as a whole, its quality as a whole, is what is interesting" (quoted in Donald Judd. White and Grey. Complete Writings, New York 1975, p. 116).