Opening: Gagosian Exhibits Eminent Light Sculpts by Dan Flavin

Whether he considered this or not when he was creating them, that Dan Flavin has so numerous and notable permanent installations around the US and Europe, perhaps allows that his light will continue to shine on, long after his tragic death. Still active and utterly relevant in 1996, the New York born artist died from complications of diabetes that year, aged just 63.

He was a key member of the Minimalism movement that crashed the cultural zeitgeist during the 1960s, and the aforementioned permanent works can now be found at the likes of the Hudson River Museum (Yonkers, NY), the lobby of the MetroTech Center (Brooklyn), the Staatliche Kunsthalle (Baden-Baden, Germany), Hypovereinsbank in Munich, the Kunstmuseum Basel, and the Union Bank of Switzerland (Bern). But opening today, November 12, Gagosian will show two particularly striking light sculptures from the early ’70s that very much bear out the enduring preeminence of his work.

Indeed, the similarly concepted untitled (to Barnett Newman) two (1971), and untitled (to Sabine and Holger) (1966–71) will be on exhibit at the Park & 75 gallery in New York, meant to coincide with exhibitions of ideologically similar works by his contemporaries John Chamberlain (at 522 West 21st Street) and Donald Judd (at 555 West 24th Street). Epitomizing his “manifesto” of removing the artist’s hand from the act of creating art, both of these Flavin sculpts are constructed from pre-existing fluorescent lighting tubes. The intention of his finished works was not to merely be pondered or comprehended on their own, but rather to inspire contemplation on how they alter the spaces into which they are placed. Viewing them meant, and still means, changing the observer’s point of view within the space – possibly an early Western comprehension of the Chinese concept of Feng shui?

Why these striking light sculptures are so specifically relevant at such a moment as this, is that on a truly global scale, the coronavirus quarantines forced us all to have to reconsider how we interact with our most familiar spaces, when having to spend an arguably unsettling amount of time within them. Flavin yet reminds us of how objects and light alter our spatial relations, and what that means to our physical and psychological exchanges with space itself.

Or as fellow artist Mel Bochner puts it, Flavin possessed, “an acute awareness of the phenomenology of rooms.” So in a way, his medium was space itself, and his “brush” was a fluorescent tube. Though he surely best explicated his work in his own words.

“I knew the actual space of a room could be broken down and played with, by planting illusions of real light, electric light, at crucial junctures in the room’s composition.”

Dan Flavin’s untitled (to Barnett Newman) two (1971), and untitled (to Sabine and Holger) (1966–71) will be on show at the Gagosian Park & 75 gallery, 821 Park Avenue, NYC, until December 29.

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