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A Note on Dan Flavin

IN 1954 JASPER JOHNS MADE his famous Flag, a painting whose surface is entirely taken up with a flat even image of the American flag. One of the things that painting demonstrates is that the subjects in figurative paintings have a very peculiar literal nature: they are visible absences. Johns made this apparent by using an image that would be as closely congruent as possible with the physical presence of his painting. One no longer feels in looking at Johns’ Flag that there is any fictive distance between oneself and the depicted object; pictorial space has been squeezed out altogether. It is as if there is something else coming between spectator and the thing pictured, or as if the illusion of depth provided by pictorial space has been exposed as having been something other than just an illusion of depth. My experience of Johns’ painting was not that it revealed a queer feature of paintings

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