New York

Dan Flavin

John Weber Gallery

The announcement for Dan Flavin’s show at Weber reads accurately, “more circular fluorescent light, etc.,” though how many “more” depends on how the counting is done. The circular fluorescent light referred to, Untitled (In Memory of Barbara Schiller) 1, consists of two horizontal rows of circular lights, each at eye level, and spanning the length of opposite walls of the large front room at Weber. In a sense, the rows of lights measure the walls they occupy. The larger span of lights consists of 23 cool and 23 warm white lights, and 11 of each kind form the smaller row on the opposite wall. In both cases, the cool lights form the left half of the horizontal row. One aspect of the physical situation that is immediately apparent is that the lights occupy the only available wall space in that enormous room; the rest is all doors and windows. Flavin’s new work is something like Richard Serra’s work at the Whitney Biennial, in that each presents two situations which are essentially the same, and because they are the same, they appear to be in a reverse relation. In Serra’s case, the two sets of long and short solid steel blocks have the same internal relation, but from the position from which we necessarily view each set, the relation seems reversed. By being the same (short to the left of long), one set appears to be flipped in relation to the other. Flavin’s circular light work has the same basic structure. With respect to the positional relation of cool to warm light in each row, one row seems to be the reverse or mirror image of the other, precisely because they are not. What is reversed, in a sense, is the walls on which the lights are mounted; the two rows of lights are on opposite walls. Without clarification, left and right as positional relations or directions are completely ambiguous.

Flavin filled the corners of the back room with four related light works using more conventional (his convention) straight fluorescent light. In each of the works, two 2’ horizontal lights of the same color spanned the corner and faced away from it, one on the floor, the other 8’ from the floor. A vertical fixture containing two different colored lights faced the corner, and connected the two horizontals at points close to the left wall. Thus, one of the lights of the vertical pair was sharply reflected off the left wall of the corner, while the light toward the center was diffused into the corner. By being reflected so sharply off the wall, the light on the left seemed visible. The light toward the center of the vertical fixture had to be inferred by noticing that the color filling the corner was different from any of the other lights in the piece. Thus, within each corner work were direct light, reflected light, and indirect, diffused light.

Bruce Boice