At MoMA, Dan Flavin Has the Charge of Duchamp

THE DAILY PIC: In his early light pieces, Flavin's Dada roots still show.

Flavin, Dan

Flavin, Dan

THE DAILY PIC (#1471): The collection show called “Take an Object,” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, includes this piece from the early 1960s by Dan Flavin. It is called Roses and ought to be thought of as an “assisted readymade”, in the great Duchampian tradition: Flavin took something called an “Aerolux Flowerlite gas discharge lightbulb” and simply “planted” it in a clay flowerpot. I like the way that Flavin used an often-neglected feature of readymades – that they normally and naturally exist in as many examples as a factory can produce – and used it to generate a fine-art edition, planting ten Roses in their own pots.

I also like the way all of Flavin’s earliest light works have a comic Dada edge, making clear that he understood the glorious absurdity of counting found bulbs – Aeroluxes or fluorescents – as art. It’s a shame that Flavin and his fans later reimagined his anyone-can-make-‘em objects as precious, connoisseurial, authored objets d’art. (The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Scott Burton, Agnes Gund and Mrs. Efrem Kurtz Funds © 2016 Estate of Dan Flavin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

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