One of the most significant American artists of the post-war period, Donald Judd changed the course of modern sculpture. Working in New York in the 1960s, Judd became known as one of the key exponents of ‘Minimalism’, but it was a label that he strongly rejected. Although he shared many of the principles identified with Minimalist art — the use of industrial materials to create abstract works that emphasise the purity of colour, form, space and materials — he preferred to describe his own work as ‘the simple expression of complex thought’.
In the late 1940s he began to practice as a painter, but by the late 1950s was working to free his painting of traditional ‘European’ preoccupations with composition and illusionism. In the early 1960s, Judd began to introduce three dimensional elements onto the surface of his works, at first creating reliefs, and then moving towards entirely free-standing structures which he called ‘specific objects’. By 1963 he had established an essential vocabulary of forms — ‘stacks’, ‘boxes’ and ‘progressions’ — which preoccupied him for the next thirty years.
Judd broke new ground in his exploration of volume, interval, space and colour . He rejected the tradition of artistic expression and craftsmanship by using industrial materials such as Plexiglas, sheet metal and plywood, and from the mid-1960s his works were fabricated by external manufacturers. By encouraging concentration on the volume and presence of the structure and the space around it, Judd’s work draws particular attention to the relationship between the object, the viewer, and its environment. This relationship became a central focus of Judd’s career, and he devoted much of his later life to the sympathetic installation of his own work.
Judd’s engagement with philosophy, architecture, design and politics informed his own work, and influenced succeeding generations of artists and designers. His pared-down forms and sensuous use of industrial materials remain a feature of much contemporary art, architecture and design. [Extract : Tate Modern]