Time for an Arty post! There are some exhibitions that I get really excited about and I always make sure to pen in some dates and buy tickets in advance. The Dan Flavin exhibition, ‘It is what it is and it ain’t nothing else’ was one which I had heard about much earlier in the year and his work is pretty iconic. I was excited that for once, it was not one I would have to travel down to London for and since it’s at Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery, it’s free entry!
Dan Flavin (1933-1996) was a post-war American artist and his work is always carefully considered – each artwork responds to the environment. His pieces are really architectural and it’s interesting to see how the pieces work in different environments, throwing light around in different ways and really becoming part of the space. In one of the spaces, curved archways were filled in, creating a rectangular arch to reflect the artwork. Flavin had a Catholic upbringing and even studied for a priesthood before studying Fine Art at university – so even though he famously denied the links to religion or symbolism in his work stating, ‘It is what it is and it ain’t nothing else’, it’s hard not to draw some kind of spiritual comparison.
Using readily available industrial strip lighting, the lights omit a kind of pale, soft light (rather than the harsh light of neon lighting) and we were told that the lights (which range from the 60s to early 80s) are no longer commercially available and are beginning to fade and decompose. So it’s interesting that the artworks are no longer the same as when Dan Flavin originally created them. This temporary element is something that Flavin explored and referred to in his Monument series (the T shaped light installations) as, ‘these monuments only survive as long as the light system is useful’. What strikes me is what happens when the lights finally stop working? Will they create replicas? Or will only photos remain?
The lights are incredibly beautiful and the bleed of the pink, yellow, blue lighting on the white walls and the silhouette of fellow exhibition go-ers is really rather lovely and almost magical. I’d highly recommend stopping by the gallery if you have the chance. It closes on the 26th June, so go go go!