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Donald Judd at Tate Modern

Crystal Lindsay

One of the most significant American artists of the post-war period, Donald Judd changed the course of modern sculpture.

donald judd
Untitled 1964; Chartreuse oil on wood and yellow enamel on iron (The Helman Collection ARTS © 2004 Judd Foundation/ Licensed by VAGA, New York/DACS, London


His own description of his work was that it was "the simple expression of complex thought". This is a retrospective of his three-dimensional work and it's the first show to trace his career since his death in 1994.

Judd's painting life was shadowed by a conscious career in disciplined thinking; first studying philosophy as a young man in the late forties, then art history and finally honing ideas into words as an art critic until 1965.

His art training had been as a painter but by the Sixties, he was attempting to shed the traditional 'European' values of figurative composition. "I wanted to create reality, not a picture of it", he declared. Fascinated by the interplay between object, viewer and environment, his interest in three-dimensional expression grew. First reliefs, then what he called 'specific objects' – free-standing objects in a room.

Judd used industrial materials to create abstract works which refined the values of colour, form and space. 'Stacks', 'boxes' and 'progressions' became the sculptures which were to preoccupy him for the next thirty years. A great copper cube open to the ceiling, reflects the orange enamel that forms it's floor. It's a stunning division of angle and colour.

Judd believed that space was one of the most important and least understood aspects of contemporary art and sought to create work which incorporated space rather than simply occupied it: he felt that this should be something deliberately shaped by the artist or architect. Just think of the exhibition of the work of Barragan at the Design Museum two years ago and you understand that this finely tuned instinct for impact and interval brings many rewards.

• Donald Judd at Tate Modern is open daily until Sunday 25 April; admission 8 (conc 6). Combined ticket with Constantin Brancusi exhibition 12 (conc 9).

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