Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Outside the Box

We keep thinking about the Donald Judd mini-retrospective at Christie's. It was our first time seeing so many Judd sculptures in sequence.

Prior to this experience, we saw in Judd only the cool, mechanical, precise, architectonic, analytic, orderly, and measured qualities - "typical male." It was like talking to an engineer in the family.

But atop the Simon & Schuster building, in a freshly painted, loft-like space with brick walls, the tranquil atmosphere and wealth of natural daylight illuminated Judd in ways we had missed.

Judd understood color. A seemingly black plexiglas panel bounced color around the interior of a steel box, unveiling evergreen, purple, and blue, complementing the nearby echoes of an orange panel. A wall piece made of green boxes and red boxes reflected each on the other producing rich grays where they met. The glass panels in "Untitled" (1990) were prismatic, capturing the light rays passing through the room, and when we stooped low to look up through the sculpture, we discovered a mesmerizing moire of metal and mirrors. Pacing back and forth before "Untitled" (1974), was like inspecting Army privates in rank and file. The steel and red interiors took on personality (or antipersonality?), becoming square-jawed soldiers called to impenetrable attention, each barking the same hearty-but-rigid response.

Judd cobbled with the details. His socket screws are not aligned, but the others, as in the steel sculptures, are. How contrary to the masculine "grand gesture," to twist bolts into rows, yet how paternal to oversee and maintain these orderly systems. Yes, it's about macho intimidation, but it's also about a patrician standard, like an obsession with hygiene and habits.

It was funny to see scuff marks on "Untitled" (1988), a red plywood and Plexiglas object on the floor. Our detective proposed that visitors had poked at the piece with their feet, like tires on a car at an auto dealer.

We always enjoy the auction house preview exhibitions, for the chance to see work up close, to catch it before it disappears into someone's living room or warehouse. But this afternoon was extra special.

I'm Judd-positive, and I vote.
Cool, me too. Thoughts on Hesse?

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