Donald Judd: the cathexis of space




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The essay examines the development of Judd’s early art criticism and sculpture at the point at which he was making substantial use of Ralph Barton Perry’s work on the physiological and psychological causes of interest, a text that provided Judd with full summaries of Freudian theory. The paper makes an original contribution to the understanding of Judd’s use of Perry’s and Freud’s concepts in his art criticism through a close reading of his published reviews circa 1963. It then demonstrates that Judd encountered a conundrum inherent within his theory of interest and addresses it through Freudian and neo-Freudian theory, particularly the role of the ideal ego, the ego ideal and the phallus-as-orifice in his early ‘Specific Objects’. This essay is significant in that there are no wholly psychoanalytic studies of Judd’s work among the extensive secondary literature other than Briony Fer’s On Abstract Art, 1997. It offers an original interpretation of the conscious and unconscious aspects of Judd’s work that also answers many of the semiotic, socio-political and feminist art criticism of Judd. The essay makes a detailed analysis of the role of the Imaginary and Symbolic phallus in Judd’s first sequence of ‘Specific Objects’, based on Lacanian theory that shows how these functioned at the level of the form and colour of the work, and in the “rhetoric of power” (Anna Chave) so often found in his essays. This paper is part of a larger book project that makes psychoanalytic readings of 1960s European and American sculpture and architecture currently under negotiation with University of Chicago Press.


RAE 2008, UoA 63 Art and Design


Martin, T.D. (2006) Donald Judd: The Cathexis of Space. The Spatial unconcious, the sixth annual symposium presented by the journalof culture and the unconcious and the California Psychoanalytic Circle, University of California, Berkley, 27-28 May 2006.


Research Institute