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22.11.09 + Inspiration

Art All Around: Dan Flavin

Jo Beck joined Trollbäck+Company in 2022 as a Writer/Strategist. Prior to that she worked as an illustrator but found she preferred and was better at writing alongside a talented team of designers.

In this series, someone from the Trollbäck team writes about an artwork they saw and found inspiring. This month: Dan Flavin at Dia Bridgehampton.

There’s a special kind of pleasure in seeing art with other people and feeling shared, wordless joy while doing it. That’s what happens at the Dan Flavin Institute in Bridgehampton, NY, in a small building off the main drag that looks like a family home. The first hint of what’s inside is a faint glow coming through the windows.

You enter the house, and follow the trail of light up the stairs. What happens on the second floor is magical, and more so for its simplicity. Flavin has built out the entire floor - which has the original, vaulted ceiling and feels instantly like a church - with a freestanding white structure maybe 10 feet high.

The structure makes a series of walls connected by corners, each wall hidden from view from the other. The zigzagging creates separate pockets, which serve as private vantage points from which to take in the art: a series of tall, geometrical arrangements of fluorescent light tubes in various colors, woven or arranged into planes, like paintings made of giant glow sticks. There are six, each of them a revelation. They are beautiful, playful, and eerie all at once. The interplay between these glowing, dimensional sculptures and the empty angles of the room creates something palpable in between – the air feels charged, and you’re bathed in the energy. From the moment you enter the building, you are lured from corner to corner by it. It feels spooky and sort of exhilarating.

Established by the Dia Art Foundation in 1983, Flavin carefully designed this space to permanently house this work. With the support of Dia, he renovated this turn-of-the-century building, once a firehouse, then a church, now a new kind of church: a permanent display of his signature works, which are full of reverence.

Flavin was alive and active in the second half of the 20th century, and many associate him with early minimalism. The work housed in Bridgehampton definitely feels minimalist. The experience is simple - it feels streamlined, and very pure. One of the installations is just a neon tube, leaning on a corner. There are no other materials or distractions in the room. It’s just walls and neon lights. It feels ordinary but evocative, mundane and sublime at the same time.

Another credit to the artist is how holistic the whole experience is - the viewer has definitely been considered from the moment they walk in the door. The whole installation seems to rely on the reduction of elements to guide your attention. Flavin didn’t even use framing devices to hide the hardware of the lights. It’s almost strange to see, in such a polished setting, but if you take a step back it makes sense that way. The works feel like they're built to invite you in, to be enjoyed and experienced without much fuss. I think it would work on anyone. Flavin seems to have trusted that if you visit the space, you’ll get it.

These works are on permanent view at Dia Bridgehampton – located at 23 Corwith Avenue, off Main Street in Bridgehampton, New York.

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