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The Materials of Minimalism

Explore how Minimalists embraced the techniques and materials of manufacturing and industry.


Donald Judd
(American, 1928–1994)

1967. Lacquer on galvanized iron, Twelve units, each 9 x 40 x 31" (22.8 x 101.6 x 78.7 cm), installed vertically with 9" (22.8 cm) intervals

Although it is hung on a wall like a painting, Untitled (Stack) projects nearly three feet from the wall and climbs like rungs on a ladder from floor to ceiling. It is made of galvanized iron boxes, all identical and of equal importance. The space around the boxes is also important. The sides are covered with commercially available green lacquer paint typically used to customize Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The tops and bottoms are bare metal. Each of the 12 boxes is nine inches high, and they are spaced nine inches apart. Depending on the height of the ceiling where Untitled (Stack) is displayed, the number of units may be reduced to maintain proper spacing between them. This flexibility reflects the importance of the whole work of art over its individual parts.

Donald Judd ignored traditional craft skills in favor of an overriding system or idea. He wanted his work to suggest an industrial production line. In fact, Judd had his works made in a factory in order to obtain a perfect finish without having to rework the material. The box was one of Judd’s favorite forms, because he felt it was neutral and had no symbolic meaning.

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

A form, sign, or emblem that represents something else, often something immaterial, such as an idea or emotion.

A combination of pigment, binder, and solvent (noun); the act of producing a picture using paint (verb, gerund).

An element or substance out of which something can be made or composed.

Any of various clear or colored synthetic organic coatings that typically dry to form a film.

The shape or structure of an object.


AUDIO: MoMA Teens discuss the materials, fabrication, and maintenance of Donald Judd’s Untitled (Stack)