Four notes on a work by Donald Judd at the AGNSW

Untitled 1975 Donald Judd

Note 1:
In each of the six units that comprise this piece, we find a division of its space into two: an open lit space and a closed un-lit space. Each of these two spaces is the opposite of the other: open as opposed to closed, lit as opposed to unlit. By opposing the other, each defines the other.

We see the open, lit space first. It is lined by five planes of wood: two sides, top, bottom and back. This is the space we most likely first look into when we look at the work. The sixth plane, a vertical plane between us and the depth of the box,  is open to us and the space within which we stand to look at the work.

Note 2:
The closed, unlit space is behind the open lit space, between it and the supporting wall at the back. It is lined by six closed planes. This space is black for lack of light — a void. Not only, though, for this reason is it a black hole — a nothing rather than a something. It is also a black hole in our perception of the piece, for many may not even see this black unlit space as existing — a nothing rather than a something.

This is so, even though Donald Judd does not hide the thickness of the ply, nor does he hide the fact the depth of the first lit space does not go all the way to the back wall. These two facts are obvious. Yet the third fact that these two add up to, remains a black hole.

Note 3:
In between the units along the wall, we see a third space defined by the wooden units. Its depth is the combined depth of the two opposing spaces noted above. The five spaces in between the units are as much a boxed space as the two found within the units.

These space boxes, however, are comprised of three closed planes — two wooden sides and the gallery wall behind — and three open planes — the top, front and bottom. The wooden boxes are seen as closed spaces in comparison with this their opposite, the open spatial boxes between them.

Note 4:
The fourth space delineated by the six wooden units is the space within which we stand to look at them. It interfaces with the one open plane of the six closed wooden boxes, and the three open planes of the five open space boxes.

This fourth space is as much a black hole as the space at the back of the wooden boxes.

The two black holes, however, oppose each other in that one is without light when the other is full of light, the light that enables us to see. Yet each is a much a black hole as the other, in that we see neither.


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