Monday, December 21, 2009

Dan Flavin's Light in Tadao Ando's Vessel

In an interview in December of 2007 Steve Morse told Matthias Waschek that as curator of the Flavin retrospective at the Pulitzer, in the world renowned architect Tadao Ando's building, he was not creating Flavin's work but rather acting as translator who spoke Flavin's language.
What a wonderful description of a curator's role in the process, and what a great first question for an interview.
I'm sure we all have our opinions about what makes this work. Does the light make the work? Does the curator make the work? Does the artist make the work? This is like owning an idea, does anyone really own an idea? Flavin's work feels like ideas. They feel open and free, like they don't belong to anyone. Flavin's retrospective required curators to apply his light to another artists' light, Tadao Ando. This was a thoughtful pairing, I'm sure, because these are two connoiseurs.
I had the opportunity to visit Ando's new building at the Clark Art Institute earlier this year and was blown away. The light of an Ando building is so present, so much a part of the space, it felt heavenly in its simplicity. To add to one of his buildings dozens of Flavin light sculptures must have been just phenomenal. Phenomenal for Flavin fans, but what about Ando?
Flavin's florescent surely cast a glare on Ando's use of natural light and ability to capture it so seductively. Could one still feel what the sun and shadows were doing to those walls during the Flavin exhibition? Whether a museum is a sculpture or not, it is there to house objects, and I'm sure Ando was proud to see his creation full of Flavins'. But Ando's buildings are sublime and complete, so if I were only to see this one once I don't know that I would want to see it full of Flavins. Then again, who else could make an Ando glow so brightly?
To see more about the exhibition check out this amazing web catalogue.

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