Unreal Nature

February 21, 2019


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:08 am

… There are many oppositions going on …

This is from ‘Art: A Different Light’ by John Perreault found in It Is What It Is: Writings on Dan Flavin Since 1964 edited by Paula Feldman and Karstan Schubert (2004):

… The fact that a particular piece is varied each time it is set up in a new space indicates that the works are to some degree what I should like to call “situational.” By “situational” I mean that the visible part of the work is in some way at least partially determined by the situation, the locale, the setting, and, in Flavin’s case in particular, the architecture of each exhibition space.

[line break added] But his works are also, to use the opposite term, “impositional.” They impose another order or another statement upon a particular space. New work that interests me is invariably a combination of these extremes. A purely situational work — if there can be such a thing — adjusts totally to the context and, if not invisible, approaches invisibility and therefore becomes an aesthetic if not metaphysical game of hide-and-seek.

[line break added] An impositional work is more traditional. Most modern art is impositional. Its presence takes no account of the environment but its presence inflects or changes the environment, often by chance placement or interior decorator whim. New art, as opposed to “modern” art, more often than not takes the context or the architecture or the setting into account.

… although [Flavin’s] pieces are often derived from particular spaces, more often than not they are set up to destroy or alter our perceptions of those spaces. Fluorescent lights are set up in corners, effectively destroying those corners, or are arranged along the floor corners to cast reflections that destroy the literal space and replace it with a perceptual or an aesthetic space.

… in my mind thre is no doubt that his fluorescent pieces and the concepts behind them make him, in spite of the early junk, a major artist.

In terms of the fluorescent pieces — the only ones worth considering — the key word has to be “opposition.” There are many oppositions going on at once in any of these pieces. I mean by this and what follows to indicate the complexity of Flavin’s fluorescent works, a complexity that may not be readily perceivable, but is nevertheless there and is what makes him such an important artist in all the best senses of that word.

There are oppositions between the fluorescent lights and the walls upon which they are mounted or the spaces that they transect. There are oppositions between natural light and artificial light, reflected light and direct light; between history and style.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




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