At lunch yesterday I walked over to the MCA and zipped through the Dan Flavin Retrospective currently on view until October 30. The same show was on display at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth when I was down there for a wedding a couple months ago. Housed in a Tadao Ando design, the exhibition was a delight, breaking out of the typical "white box" galleries of many modern art museums to interact with the ground floor reflecting pool and the concrete walls so prevalent in Ando's architecture.
So walking on over to the MCA, I couldn't help but anticipate how Flavin's multitude of fluorescent tubes would work in their new location, and not in a good way. It seemed like his pieces gained something in the unique spaces and textures of Fort Worth, but I was wrong. The colored glow of the tubes is not only amplified by the MCA's plethora of white walls but it is used to full effect by the museum in the placement of the pieces and the location of the exhibit's temporary walls.
The retrospective is housed in the museum's top floor, typically accessed by an elliptical stair located at the northwest corner. Before arrival at this floor, one senses the soft glow of the colored tubes, fading away ever-so-softly from its source. The small gallery atop the stairs houses Flavin's beginnings into what became an obsession for the rest of his life, his "icons". These first pieces seem crude in comparison, but nevertheless they are extremely important in the artist's development.
The strongest presence at the top of the stairs is the green glow of the piece above, this time located in front of the MCA's bank of windows above its monumental stairs and plaza. This location makes for a striking view from the plaza and the park across the street, especially at night (makes me wonder if they "leave the lights on" after close).
Without going into details about the remaining parts of the exhibition, the white walls of the museum become canvases for Flavin's icons. Sometimes it's merely a corner that reflects the glow of a hidden, colored tube. Sometimes whole walls are bathed in blues, reds, yellows. The best situations come as one moves from room to room, slowly gaining a read on what's to come. The MCA sells a couple books to accompany the show, though his is an art that must be experienced to both understand and appreciate. And from my experience the more one can see his work in various places, the more one sees how his light shapes space and alters our experience of it.