New York

Dan Flavin

Leo Castelli - Uptown

Dan Flavin’s new show is entitled/described: “Some uneven cool white circular fluorescent light for the new, even walls of the Leo Castelli Gallery . . . (with necessary sketches and diagrams) and seven pairs of diagrams with color, for lamp barred corridors.” Translation: there is one environmental piece, a letter-cum-diagram with instruction on how to install it, and cheerful colored drawings in the back room (the “lamp barred corridors”). Thus there is the big work, accompanied by small saleable items, an understandable though not a salutary mix. The innovation, as I suppose it can be called, is the substitution of circular light fittings for tubular ones, used here, as in several recent shows. They glow on each side as you enter the front room. The parallel installations are like facing Ls, both running down the corners, one extending most of the way along the skirting to the opposite wall, one stopping short. I can see why some such step was necessary for Flavin because his later use of straight tubular lights was getting more elaborate and fussy, so that an awkward complexity was being demanded of readymade units whose original value to him had been simplicity and starkness. The desire for humble origins that had motivated Flavin’s original use of fluorescent tubes was compromised by increasing expertise and environmental ambition. It may be that switching to circular fittings is what is needed for him to recover the directness of his early work, for it does seem that he was encountering developmental problems with the standard tube fixtures, but it is too early to say on the evidence of this piece. The next exhibit may show, one way or the other.

––Lawrence Alloway