In 1962, Donald Judd created his first work in three-dimensions. Made out of wood, masonite and an asphalt pipe, this freestanding piece was the first object that he exhibited. Judd followed this piece with a second freestanding piece made out of wood and a right-angled metal pipe. He would go on to create ten major works in 1963, exhibiting eight of them, three built for the wall and five for the floor, in his one-man exhibition at the Green Gallery in New York in 1963. As Judd stated in an interview in 1971:
I was surprised when I made those first two freestanding pieces, to have something set out into the middle of the room. It puzzled me. On the one hand, I didn’t quite know what to make of it, and on the other, they suddenly seemed to have an enormous number of possibilities. It looked at that point and from then on that I could do anything. Anyway, I certainly didn’t think I was making sculpture.
Not sculpture or painting, Judd called these new objects “Specific Objects.” Characterizing the qualities of this new work in a 1965 essay of the same title, Judd assessed the importance of the paintings of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still in the development of three-dimensional work and references the work of his contemporaries, such as Lee Bontecou, John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin, and Claes Oldenburg, among others, as examples of this new kind of art. As Judd wrote in his last published essay of 1993:
Before the right angle and its predecessor, all ‘sculpture’ was placed on a pedestal…Nothing had ever been placed directly on the floor….Since now it is common for work to be placed anywhere in a room, it is impossible for people to understand that placement on the floor and the absence of a pedestal were inventions. I invented them.
Three-Dimensional Works in Metal
Donald Judd rejected established terms for describing his work, particularly his three-dimensional works of art. Rather than referring to his work as sculpture, Judd developed a series of terms to describe the various forms he developed over time.
A floor piece is a freestanding Judd work that rests directly on the floor without a pedestal, and at a considerable distance from other works of art. A floor piece may consist of one single structure or multiple units with a defined spatial relationship that as a whole comprises the work of art.
A wall piece consists of one single unit or multiple units, usually rectangular in shape, hanging on the wall. These works are often referred to using terms that relate to their structure or orientation (i.e., single unit or multiple unit “stacks,” “wall units,” horizontal wall pieces, progressions, bullnose, or “meter boxes”) or place of fabrication (Enameled aluminum wall pieces, first made by Swiss fabricator Lehni and subsequently by other fabricators, are often referred to as “Swiss pieces”).
To identify Judd works in metal, most of which were untitled, a combination of fabricator’s name and date was used on shop records as follows: Fabricator YY-##. For example, Bernstein 91-02 would indicate the second work of art ordered in the year 1991. When speaking with Judd Foundation staff or a conservator about a Judd work, this number should be provided as a reference.