Friday, April 2, 2010

Lights and Silence

Was Dan Flavin's installation created for the space or Richmond Hall created for the installation?
The 1930's building was a grocery store, then a bar and a dance hall. Dan Flavin considered part of the Minimalist movement created the design. The work itself was completed posthumously and he never saw the finished work.
The biggest installation occupies the hall, and cannot be appreciated without walking through. The visual effect is created by the pattern of the lights and their shadows: two sets of vertical neon fluorescent lights pink, yellow, green blue separated by an horizontal line of dark violet lamps (blacklights) with a repetition of the colours along both walls (approximately 128 feet long).
Two major details disrupt this otherwise flawless work. The ceiling with the attachments for the air conditioning, breaks the lines created by the shadows of the neon lights which would make an arch. The floor is uneven and the light is not "pooling" like described in the catalogue. The light simply dies.
The other notable piece is one of the "monuments" to V. Tatlin (they were fifty of these "monuments" to V. Tatlin), which occupies a previous storage room in the same building.

The next stop is the Rothko Chapel. The octagonal room is lined up with huge paintings from Mark Rothko which are dominant black to dark purple. It is an invitation to introspection and there is no distraction for the eye from the ground of grey bricks to the sober shape of the building. The mind cannot wander in the space which appears harsh and soulless in its perfection. Maybe this chapel has never been used for its purpose and lacks the spirituality that fills places of worship. I found the Chapel sterile and uninspiring.

Walking out of the chapel, the visitor is met by the "Broken Obelisk" from Barnett Newman. This is a powerful work which defies the laws of gravity. The purity of the design is striking with its reflection in the pond surrounding it. Unfortunately, the space has shrunk around the sculpture which is becoming overgrown by shrubs limiting the view of this impressive work.

photograph above by the author

photograph to the right from the website (1987)

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