Curator, Ann Temkin: What seems ordinary in a sculpture by Donald Judd is far from it. This particular stack is made of galvanized iron, which is the kind of material that you would see normally on the facade of some skyscraper or those barriers that divide highways, and the colors he would use would be industrial paints.
For him there was no mythology about the beauty of the stroke that came from the hand of the artist. This work, like all of Judd's work from this time, was made by a fabricator in a shop. Art was a matter-of-fact thing. It wasn't going to tell you anything about Donald Judd's soul.
The idea of repetition goes hand in hand with that. If you have one unit used again and again and again that goes against the idea of Romantic expression, or personal subjective sentiment. In fact, for Judd what mattered was the placement of these pieces, very deliberately sandwiched between walls, floor and ceiling. There is nothing inherently magical about any of these units. This is one of the very important contributions that Judd's art makes. Its really about space as much as it is about object.
Untitled (Stack) is made of up to twelve rectangular metal boxes—a simple geometric form Judd favored because he felt it carried no symbolic meaning. Depending on the height of the ceiling where the work is displayed, the number of units may be reduced in order to maintain even spacing between them. Judd made this work based on a predetermined system, circumventing the spontaneous decisions artists often face during the art-making process. Like many of his Minimalist contemporaries, Judd used industrial materials—in this case, galvanized iron and green lacquer paint typically used in auto body shops—and had the work fabricated in a metal workshop according to his specifications.
Sculpture must always face gravity, and the stack—one thing on top of another— is one of its basic ways of coping. The principle traditionally enforces a certain hierarchy, an upper object being not only usually different from a lower one but conceptually nobler, as when a statue stands on a pedestal. Yet in Judd's stack of galvanized–iron boxes, all of the units are identical; they are set on the wall and separated, so that none is subordinated to another's weight (and also so that the space around them plays a role in the work equivalent to theirs); and their regular climb—each of the twelve boxes is nine inches high, and they rest nine inches apart—suggests an infinitely extensible series, denying the possibility of a crowning summit. Judd's form of Minimalism reflected his belief in the equality of all things. "In terms of existing," he wrote," everything is equal."
The field of Minimalist objects, however, is not an undifferentiated one—Judd also believed that sculpture needed what he called "polarization," some fundamental tension. Here, for example, the uniform boxes, their tops and undersides bare metal, suggest the industrial production line. Meanwhile their fronts and sides have a coat of green lacquer, which, although it is auto paint, is a little unevenly applied, and has a luscious glamour.