Magazine article Artforum International

Dan Flavin: Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts

Magazine article Artforum International

Dan Flavin: Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts

Article excerpt

It appears we are in the midst of a Dan Flavin renaissance. In recent years, his work has seen a host of exhibitions around the world, including, most notably, a comprehensive retrospective organized by the Dia Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Art and accompanied by a catalogue raisonne. Coming on the heels of that survey, whose extensive tour ended last year, "Dan Flavin: Constructed Light" might have gotten a little lost. It shouldn't have. Although modest in size (consisting of seventeen works, ten of them undergoing color changes halfway through the exhibition's run), "Constructed Light" proved one of the most revealing of the artist's shows to date.

Flavin's light installations are site-specific in the most general sense (he called them "situational"), their qualities varying according to the space in which they appear. More often than not, however, their architectural context is that of the typical modernist white cube. The Pulitzer is modernist, to be sure, but its gallery spaces are hardly typical. Architect Tadao Ando's design is rooted in traditions of the open domestic structure (think Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House or Philip Johnson's Glass House), incorporating luscious features such as velvety gray concrete, monumentally high walls, intimate alcoves, and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Guest curator Tiffany Bell, an eminent Flavin scholar, was charged with selecting and installing the artist's works in response to Ando's architecture. Some of her curatorial moves were surprisingly straightforward, including the exhibiting of two pieces consisting of repeated circular elements that serve to contrast the building's insistent rectilinear forms (Untitled and Unfilled [in Memory of Barbara Schiller], both 1973). Other decisions were pluckier: Untitled (to Stephen with gratitude aplenty), 1974-89, was positioned so as to completely block access to one modestly sized gallery. …

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