Judd’s true abilities, the MoMA exhibition suggests, lie in planning, subtle experimentation, and concept design. Judd studied philosophy, and what his work lacks in immediate expressiveness finds a counterpoint in its conceptual rigor. After the early 1960s, Judd made mock-ups and hired fabricators, such as the Bernstein Brothers in New York and Lehni AG in Switzerland, to realize his ideas.
A full appreciation of the subsequent galleries, filled with Judd’s mature work, requires patience and a thoughtful disposition. You have to enjoy watching the way light and shadow bounce off the six giant, off-kilter plywood boxes in Judd’s Untitled (1973), and appreciate the variation in wood grain that resembles an animal hide as much as it does a tree trunk. You have to find the musicality in the conjoined colored boxes that Judd started fabricating in 1984 and continued working on until 1992, two years before he died. You have to find funeareal poignancy in the black stack that Judd made towards the end of his life, the last work Temkin included in the show before the exit. You have to peer into the hollows Judd created in and around constructions of copper, plexiglass, and galvanized iron, and think about how this emptiness—as well as the works’ varying colors and materials—make you feel.