Donald Judd, untitled works in plywood, 1978 / Barnett Newman, Notes (I–XII), 1968
In the special exhibition gallery, Donald Judd’s series of untitled works in plywood from 1978 is paired with a suite of prints by Barnett Newman. Plywood was long an important material for Judd—he began working with painted plywood in his breakthrough floor pieces in the early 1960s and first used exposed, natural plywood in a series of floor works in 1974. The plywood wall pieces in Chinati’s collection form a group composed of sixteen individual works. All sixteen have identical exterior measurements of 50 x 100 x 50 cm, but bear unique internal compositions. Diagonal and vertical divisions based on a 1/2 or a “slot” measurement (1/8 of their depth or height,1/16 of their length) are recurring motifs. This suite of variations within a set form prefigures the 100 works in mill aluminum that Judd would soon begin conceiving for the artillery sheds at Chinati, where the spatial configurations realized in this group of sixteen wall works were developed on a much larger scale of magnitude.
Complementing the Judd works, Barnett Newman’s Notes (I–XII) (1968), a portfolio of seventeen etchings and aquatints, are also composed of variations within a set form. The portfolio of prints was a gift from trustee Annalee Newman after her husband’s death, and it was a goal of Judd’s to permanently display Newman’s works on paper in a small building at Chinati. In 1968, Newman began working with a new technique, etching and aquatint, to create the Notes portfolio. In the first seven works of the series, Newman used an upended rectangular format divided into three verticals, with hatched lines, rows of commas or areas dotted with small circles and spirals, and fields of white to balance the composition. Notes VIII–XII recall paintings such as Newman’s Station of the Cross (1968), composed of only black on unprepared canvas. In these later Notes he applied aquatint to increase the depth of the black area and reworked the entire surface with aquatint to make the original band, now black on black, almost indiscernible. While Notes I–VII can be seen as an attempt to portray the equivalent of color in a graphic medium, the later Notes refer to models whose form, as in etching, is defined by black alone.