Dazzling Display of Neon Makes Flavin Flavour of the Month; EXHIBITION

Article excerpt

Byline: NICK HACKWORTH

Dan Flavin

Hayward Gallery

"IT IS what it is and it ain't nothing else," Dan Flavin said of his neon installations, sceptical of the pretensions that critics and curators ascribed to them. With refreshing directness, the American minimalist, who died in 1996, was happy for his creations to be simply beautiful and for people to enjoy them as an "in and out" experience: pop into a gallery, irradiate yourself in pure colour, then pop out and have a sandwich.

This first major UK retrospective covers a career that from 1963 onwards focused exclusively on putting together tubes of massmade neon lights, using only 10 colours and five different shapes.

It should have been a case of reductio ad absurdum but from first contact the aesthetic power of Flavin's simple vision is burned into the retina.

The show takes us from Flavin's early experiments with attaching lights to painted constructions, through his first pure neon work - a single strip hung diagonally on the wall that became an icon of the age of minimalism - to his later, more complex, often site-specific, installations. …