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Shining glories

An exhibition at LACMA shows how Dan Flavin made ordinary light seem luminous.

May 12, 2007|David Pagel | Special to The Times

On the walls and ceiling of the 52-foot-long central one are fastened 31 blue fluorescent tubes. (Flavin almost never affixed lights to the ceiling.) The diagonal orientation of the lights of "untitled (to my dear bitch, Airily)" confounds perception of spatial recession. The tunnel-like hall seems both shorter and longer than it actually is -- as if you have stepped into a Cubist painting from another planet.

The other two corridors are blocked, in the middle, by florescent fixtures. In the longest one, "untitled (to Robert, Joe and Michael)," pink and yellow lights are arranged back-to-back, forming horizontal bars. Your eyes can go where your body can't, blending the segregated colors. In the shortest corridor, "untitled (to Jan and Ron Greenberg)," 8-foot fixtures are fastened side-by-side and back-to-back, forming a solid wall of light, one side golden, the other green. The volume and intensity of the light play physical tricks on your eyes. If you linger in the green half, its initially vivid color gradually bleeds from the space, leaving an unnatural white abuzz with malignant energy.

As you walk from space to space, the color from the previous one sticks in your eyes, altering the tint of what you see until it fades into memory. Cool blues become warm purples, a slice of yellow turns pink, red shifts to rose. It's a sensual celebration of color's intangible physicality.

To emphasize the prominence of the Hauserman installation, curators Michael Govan, LACMA's director, and Tiffany Bell, art historian and critic, have elected not to include as many pieces from the late 1980s and '90s that were displayed at previous venues. Upstairs, a gallery with about 50 studies, sketches, watercolors and collages shows the artist's hand in action. These pieces are sidelights, far less gripping than Flavin's light works, where the real magic lies.


`Dan Flavin: A Retrospective'

Where: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.

When: Opens Sunday. Noon to 8 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays; noon to 9 p.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to

8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays

Ends: Aug. 12

Price: $5 to $9

Contact: (323) 857-6000

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