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This portfolio consists of a series of images where horizontal white bands are precisely masked out of an etched aquatint ground. The configuration of the bands is different in each print. The portfolio explores the nature of the difference between closed and open-ended line. Bands which terminate at the margin subvert the defined nature of the black ground extending the image beyond its edge and allowing the lines to float in space. Those which terminate within the ground emphasize its clearly defined edges. In 1965 Judd wrote: ‘The main thing wrong with painting is that it is a rectangular plane placed flat against the wall. A rectangle is a shape itself; it is obviously the whole shape; it determines and limits the arrangement of whatever is on or inside of it. In works before 1946 the edges of the rectangle are a boundary, the end of the picture. The composition must react to the edges and the rectangle must be unified, but the shape of the rectangle is not stressed; the parts are more important, and the relationship of color and form occur among them. In the paintings of Pollock, Rothko, Still and Newman, and more recently of Reinhardt and Noland, the rectangle is emphasized. The elements inside the rectangle are broad and simple and correspond closely to the rectangle. The shapes and surface are only those which can occur plausibly and on a rectangular plane. The parts are few and so subordinate to the unity as not to be parts in an ordinary sense. A painting is nearly an entity, one thing, and not the indefinable sum of a group of entities and references.’ (‘Specific Objects’, Arts Yearbook 1965 quoted in exh. catalogue Don Judd, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven and Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 1970, n.p.). 

In the present etchings, the totality of the work may only be apprehended by viewing the whole portfolio. Judd thereby ensures that neither the rectangularity of the aquatint ground nor the linear image is predominant as might be the case when viewing each image in isolation.

By restricting the tonal variation to one color (black) and by masking out the design elements, Judd emphasizes the flatness of the image, for margins and the motif are in the same plane and tone. The aquatint, which in all other respects acts as a ground, is paradoxically, therefore, the only printed area. The coarse application of the aquatint, which allows a speckled penetration by the paper tone, further emphasizes this flatness.

Donald Judd, The complete set of six aquatints on etching paper, 1980
Each hand-signed and numbered; each sheet 28 ¾ x 33 ¾ in (74 x 86.5 cm) Edition of 150 + 20 AP + 6 PP

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