New York

Dan Flavin

Leo Castelli Gallery downtown / John Weber Gallery

The more I ponder over Dan Flavin’s shows, the less I find to write about. Maybe that’s too harsh. Does an artist always have to exhibit new work to remain interesting? No, but there’s a difference between development, the sense of questions still being asked, and repetition, the tired manipulation of a formula to produce rather than inquire. Flavin’s recent pieces seem to side with repetition. I’m not denying the beauty of the works, or the way in which the light paints, transforming, its environment. The green glow suffusing the room of the John Weber Gallery does retain a mystery as it envelops the space, setting a cool (meditative) tone. Its source, a rectangle of tubes framing a corner, confronts one only with its horizontal bars of pink light—its vertical greens and blues physically facing away to the wall as their colored light comes forward around one. Here, more than in the other works, there is a sense of the “heaviness” ot the light, almost tangible, as it fills the air and yet at the same time remains immaterial. Still, what predominates is the jewellike adornment of the room: sparkles of color reflecting on the ceiling and floor, embellishing the prevailing canvas of green. Downstairs in the Leo Castelli Gallery, the room is invaded by the brilliant whiteness of the light. Yet, while there is an initial surprise at the change, a blink at the glare, one soon fixates on the decorative arrangement of the circular tubes on the wall. It is their design that seems emphatic. And I am left with the feeling that light for Flavin has become just an art-making tool—that it is being used to create a picture, “pretty” but not very provocative.

Susan Heinemann