Category Archives: Installation art

DESERT SHINDIG: Shenanigans at Shangrila, Artillery Magazine, November 2013

Like its Himalayan literary counterpart, Joshua Tree’s Shangrila is a utopian vision; part dream, part tourist destination. Concretely, it’s a one-bedroom residence on Shangrila Lane, overlooking a seemingly endless expanse of undeveloped, government-owned desert. It’s remote enough to seem completely isolated, yet close enough to civilization that you can feel the earthquake-like blasts from simulated bombing raids at the U.S. military fake Iraqi training village in neighboring Twentynine Palms. Originally a homesteader cabin built in 1947, the Shangrila lot was decrepit when artist and curator Drew Dunlap purchased it in 2005 while enrolled in Otis College’s MFA program. In addition to envisioning his future home as a vacation rental, Dunlap also wanted to establish a sporadic artists’ residency where one could create works inspired by epic surroundings. Today Shangrila resembles a mid-century modernist spec house with a swing set and three conspicuous shipping containers in the back yard.

In 2008 Dunlap executed his plan, inviting a few dozen artists for a weekend of experimentation and imaginative planning. They planted the seeds for what would become “Shangrila”: the art event, which debuted in June of 2010. For this first weekend event, Dunlap curated art and performances investigating questions of utopia. I participated in this show as an artist, and again the next year (which, in the spirit of full disclosure, probably dulls my critical edge a little). While there were many fine works on display in that 2010 show, Rob Faucette’s intervention stood out as particularly poignant. Faucette invented Girlfriend Beer, a fictional company that “sponsored” the event. The artist stuck DIY labels on cheap beer cans, posted roadside ads, and distributed free branded koozies to visitors. I couldn’t help but take his work as a preemptive inoculation by satire against corporate sponsorship.

As the perennial art happening matured, Dunlap shifted his role, co-curating “Shangrila: New Moon” with artist Michelle Chong in June of 2010. During the day, Veronica Duarte’s iconographic self-guided tour relayed meandering information about Joshua Tree and its history, while at night Taylor Tschider’s galaxy in a cardboard box beautifully echoed the Milky Way above. In early fall of 2011, Dunlap turned the event over to the collective Durden and Ray, who put on “Shangrila: Oasis.” I missed out on this iteration, but stories of naked BBQ cooks, stalagmite campaign signs by Elizabeth Gahan, and Brian Thomas Jones’ glowing super-phallic inflatable tube confirm that I should have been there.

Unlike other desert art events like tech-yuppie Burning Man, or the more elite High Desert Test Sites, Shangrila remains emphatically emergent and wonderfully unpredictable. Somewhere in between the blazing Friday sunshine and the hungover Sunday drive home (after a transcendental visit to the Integratron sound bath a few miles away), Shangrila morphs from nervous art opening into a temporary autonomous zone where people transform in strange ways. I’ve witnessed buttoned-up academics get shit-faced and near-naked with people navigating in and around in-situ artworks pursuing nocturnal trysts.

This year, the curatorial team of Steven Bankhead and Jesse Benson organized “Shangrila: Burrito Deluxe,” which included 50-plus artists. To manage the expansive undertaking, they enlisted other curators. As Bankhead notes, “Jesse and I both distinguish ourselves more as organizers… We weren’t so interested in curating specific types of art but rather organizing a group of artists that are doing interesting things.” On Friday, Calvin Phelps hosted “Supper,” a performance/gourmet meal inspired by the desert. The collective Elephant created an impressive temporary stage resembling their LA outdoor space. And with the help of Michelle Chong, Elephant scheduled a series of performances throughout the night, many of them by members of the LA sound art organization, SASSAS.

One of the greatest things about Shangrila is the ability to encounter work in the surprising desert landscape. As Benson puts it, “While some works were immediately recognizable in the environment, others were more difficult to ‘discover.’ Stumbling through the desert at night with a flashlight and encountering a work is of course different than seeing a work in a gallery.”

This experience is a welcome invitation to create site-specific installations, exemplified this year by Fatima Hoang’s small inflatable sun, which kept rising and falling throughout the night, commenting on the promise of new beginnings while comically punctuating Joshua Tree’s picturesque vista.

Like any event incorporating lots of artists with multiple agendas, Shangrila always has hits and misses. While some works fall flat in their new desert context—especially those that cling to the safety of the property’s shipping containers, which mimic the white cube—others remain indelibly memorable because they reimagine our relation to the desert landscape. In the end it’s the strange weekend-long event that creates the critically important space for contemplation.

Lucy Raven at The Hammer Museum Fall 2012

Lucy Raven at The Hammer Museum Fall 2012

by Tucker Neel

2012, 35mm film, color, 4:48min looped.
Installed at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles from September 11, 2012 to January 20, 2013, RP31 is an animation composed from 31 film projection test patterns and calibration charts.

To create RP31, her latest installation at the Hammer museum, Lucy Raven first collected film test patterns, strips of celluloid used by projectionists for decades to calibrate focus for movie screenings. Each projector has it’s own test pattern, which screens before audiences take their seats. In this way the test patterns make intelligible vision possible while remaining intentionally invisible to the audience they aid. Raven then digitally scanned these test patterns, spliced them up, and printed them back to 35 mm celluloid. The resulting film sequences the images in a frenetic pulsating order on a Möbius strip attached to a hulking and loud projector placed on the floor of the museum’s darkened screening room. One is invited to sit on comfortable chairs to take in what is a truly unique and poetically critical visual experience.

In a rather comedic turn, Raven’s coagulation of pulsating test patterns are impossible to focus on, their images appearing for only a fraction of a second like some sort of subliminal messaging experiment. The test patters themselves are quite beautiful, with color gradations, starbursts, checkered black and white grids, pools of concentric circles, symmetrical lines of numbers and text, and gorgeous, light-illuminated blocks of pure color. When the stills overlap in one’s retinal memory they bring to mind Bauhaus color theory, Russian constructivist compositions, and of course the psychedelic experiments of Timothy Leary and the Merry Pranksters. While the intoxicating patterns draw the viewer in, it is Raven’s installation, combined with the history behind her work, which provides us with a much deeper critical proposition.

Through her collection of projection test patterns, Raven has become one of the only archivists of these important, yet hidden, features of cinematic history and has consequentially preserved one of the only physical signs to the projectionist’s presence preserved in film. In keeping with Raven’s interest in globalization and labor (her previous animations focusing on Chinese workers and the mining of natural resources), RP31 foregrounds the role of the film projectionist whose craft is integral to film history, yet threatened by the digital age and its new job positions. Sitting next to the whirring projector, with it’s clicking reels and humming motor emitting the unmistakable, perhaps nostalgic, smell of well-oiled gears and heated film, one cannot help but think of clashing technologies, the industrial revolution passing into a digital world, the trained projectionist with specialized knowledge giving way to the modern-day AV tech in charge of multiple media. In pondering this shift one jumps to questions of the concurrent movement of labor and technologies across increasingly globalized market-driven economies.

In addition to Raven’s work interrogating questions of presence and absence, viewer and worker, her underlying critique implicitly works to deconstructs heriarchies of power. Such a critique is made apparent by Raven’s choice to position her large projector on the floor in the room with the audience and not in the museum’s projectionist’s room a few feet above. This placement makes the projector both conspicuous and subject to analysis. The projector’s placement means the height of the film image is so low that one’s shadow easily interrupts the screening, as if to make one aware of one’s own presence, frustrating the clean line demarcating performer and audience. One is left to reflect on how all media that attempts to inform and entertain gains meaning from contingent relations of power, dependent on hierarchies and conventions made intentionally invisible. As a point of inspiration, Raven has given us an example of how these relations can be brought to light.

Erik Frydenborg ‘DISTANTS’ by THE DISTANTS Cherry and Martin

Originally published in Artillery Magazine jul/aug 2010 Vol. 4 Issue 6

Erik Frydenborg’s first solo-exhibition at Cherry and Martin consists of sculptural groupings that bring to mind a kind of imaginary high-end boutique filled with commodities that entreat the viewer with their gorgeous abstracted forms and unrelenting delectable uselessness. Walking through his show one gets the feeling that one should be shopping, or at least browsing, for something to die for.

Installation view of 'DISTANTS' by THE DISTANTS

The most arresting of Frydenborg’s works contain small sliced polyurethane molds of the negative space left by absent forms. These lumpy thingamabobs, which ungulate with surfaces resembling goosebumped skin, are pigmented in hues reminiscent of sun-bleached Peptobismol, 20th century workplace beige, and Caribbean wintergreen, colors that serve to calm the abject forms and make them more appealing. They look like they should be one-of-a-kind creations, yet many are often replicated in multiples of two to four, and are positioned carefully on varying geometrically conspicuous bases that, like Brancusi plinths, serve as both pedestal and artwork.

Warm Ride 2010 U/V shielded polyurethane plastic, pigments, latex rubber, sanded gray rubber, steel rod, steel display stand, MDF, stenciled MDF, paint, nails 76 x 72 x 26 inches

Unfortunately, the show is marred by some inconsequential photographs, the most disappointing of which is Sunstroke, a parlor-sized portrait of an entirely blank expanse punctuated by a tiny patch of skin-like outgrowth in its bottom left corner. The photo’s “look at me” silence fails to hide the fact that it has little to say. It’s fortunate that the rest of the works in the show come with richer significance.

One of Frydenborg’s best assets is his ability to pan Modernist sludge for the equivalent of artistic gold: a signature aesthetic that lingers in the mind, affecting all similar forms in the future. This is achieved with a work like Warm Ride, where multiple versions of his sliced blobs, fresh off an assembly line, stand on pedestals of varying heights. A stark grey rubber sheet attached to the wall frames the scene. The sculptural tableau sits on a shallow white pedestal, which reasserts the work as a totalized cohesive unit; everything fits nicely together and nothing is out of place. It’s a theatrical conglomeration of forms that resists easy interpretation, but brings to mind Italian Futurist Umberto Boccioni’s dynamic sculptures, with hints of Martin Kippenberger’s fantastic arrangements of transformed everyday objects. If anything is certain, it’s that these objects are important and worthy of such considered display.

Frydenborg’s sculptural works make you aware of your own judgmental gaze, how you value one object against another, because the objects in question, despite their perfect placement, are seemingly interchangeable. In their entirely abstracted state, literally produced from the negative space delineating a tangible surface, they come into play without referential touchstones. This causes much of the work to act like a showroom for mass manufactured widgets, evocative and pleasing widgets, but widgets nonetheless. The result is an environment that apes high-end display, but intentionally fails to deliver the goods. Frydenborg’s is not necessarily a critique of the gallery as yet another trinket shop, but a generative exploration into the conventions of display that typify nearly every place of purchase in a post-industrial society. If this work succeeds, which has yet to be seen, it does so by casting its signature misshapen shadow on all the venues that sell goods out there, from handbags at Louis Vuitton, to imported pineapples at Vons, making us even more aware that sometimes we want things simply because they are arranged to be wanted.

-Tucker Neel

The Unique Spectacle That Is The Contemporary Art Fair

By Tucker Neel

Originally published in  Fine Art Magazine, Vol. 33 No 1, Spring 2008, 67.

Installation at Gavin Brown Projects

Installation at Gavin Brown Projects

Art Basel is like watching your parents have sex, or so says one of my favorite graduate school professors. While the gallery/collector public displays of affection and private backroom deals may seem to spoil the mood, the roaring art market wouldn’t be able to survive in its current state without Basel.

For many galleries Miami in December is the time and place to unload inventories and increase reserves for the coming year. This sobering reality doesn’t diminish the queasiness that comes with seeing work you adore hanging clustered like so much meat in a butcher’s window. Hearing dealers and collectors talk in frank, Warholian terms about how much is it now and how much it will be worth in a year seems to take the fun out of looking at the work in the first place. And watching works sell to earnest collectors and hotel chains alike, and knowing that in a few months the entire cycle will start again can put a damper on any sort of art-school-fueled idealism.

Yet if one can overlook its artistic and creative constraints, Basel can become a welcome opportunity for artists. Where else can one interact with so many intelligent, influential (an often inebriated) artists, writers, curators, and cultural mavens from all over the world? If anything, the multiple fairs allow for thousands of artists to contrast practices and compare conceptual interests.

Once inside the fairs the repetition of materials and methods was at times overwhelming. Every-day objects cast in metal, taxidermied animals, reconstituted designer goods, Photoshopped history paintings masquerading as photographs, utilitarian tools covered in sparkles, crystals and glitter, adolescent flat watercolors, oversized celebrity-themed photographs and paintings, abject libidinal cartoons, finish-fetish metals, neon, glitter, cardboard, and used and unused bottles of alcohol – all cropped up again and again in countless booths.

This is not to say that any of the works employing these techniques were inherently derivative. In fact, an outstanding work at Art Basel employed more than one of these material concerns. Oliver Payne and Nick Relph’s installation at Gavin Brown Projects allowed visitors to peruse the duo’s stylish retro sneakers stuffed with expensive bottles of Chateau Latour, strategically placed alongside antiquated technology like a tan Macintosh Classic computer or an old Tamagotchi keychain. Displayed on well-lit platforms a’ la Prada or the MOMA’s design wing, the work embodied a kind of dandy decorative sensibility, updating Haim Steinbach’s 80’s consumer fetish wall displays for a new nostalgic millennium.

Another work, also reminiscent of Jason Rhodes’ plastic phantasmagoria, was Franco Mondini-Ruiz’s Infinito Botanica at Frederieke Taylor’s booth at the Pulse art fair. Here the artist arranged a crowded table of religious idols draped in fake foods, pizza, Corona beer bottles, ceramic tzotchkes and pop art piñatas. The booth’s walls were crammed with clichéd paintings of whimsical white dresses, lonesome suited figures, and brooding faces, all of which looked like they came straight from a local mall’s Fine Art emporium. The overall effect was not only humorous, but also keenly critical of the art fair’s tendency to value commerce over kunst, likening the entire experience to a carnival of conspicuous consumption.

However not all standouts employed an over-the-top aesthetic. Jay Johnson’s Some Kind of Meal in Quint Contemporary Art’s booth at Art Miami sparsely speckled an unremarkable wall with minuscule bronze objects: a bottle, a pill, a funnel–each referencing human relationships to food, eating, digestion, and sustenance. The work insisted on placing the viewer in a self-reflexive position, highlighting one’s own bigness next to the work’s conspicuous smallness. This physical sensation no doubt heightened by the work’s close proximity to nearby bombastic and self-consciously BIG painting and photography.

Unfortunately some artists and galleries can take reductive tendencies too far. Take Wilfredo Prieto’s El Tiempo es Oro / Time is Gold installation in Martin Von Zomeren’s booth at NADA for example. The entire booth was painted machine-gun blue, empty, save for a single gold pocket watch dangling from the ceiling. With this didactic polemic deployed in such a privileged space, the piece clumsily strives to addresses the economies of space and time associated with paying for and showing in an expensive fair. But the piece does little more than scream its castigations in a familiar tone at an uninterested and unreceptive audience. While Prieto has made his name practicing similar flat-footed institutional critiques (some of them at times quite acerbic and poignant), he, and many other artists with similar goals, could learn a thing or two from Yves Klein.

While admittedly operating under less anti-capitalist pretenses, Klein spoke to Prieto’s current concerns with Le Vide, his now legendary performance from 1956. For this work the artist provided blue cocktails to guests attending his opening in a gallery that featured nothing displayed on its blank white walls. Upon returning home after the show and retiring to the water closet, the patrons found that their urine had turned a patented Yves Klein Blue. He had effectively used the tools of the trade (booze and a party) to highlight the merger of the gallery/patron relationship, making the remnant of such public interaction visible in the most private of places.

Maybe the art world is too jaded to take note of pranks like this. Maybe we’ve seen it all before. However, Cut out ‘however’ one can only hope that more artists could channel Klein’s strategic humor within the primed setting Basel provides. Such an informed, simple, and hilarious intervention would no doubt usher in new ways of seeing and participating in the unique spectacle that is the contemporary art fair.

Tucker Neel’s Perspectives in the Crowd at The Bolsky Gallery

Curator’ Statement:

Perspectives in the Crowd
Bolsky Gallery
Otis College of Art and Design
June 20-August 29, 2007

The universal gesture of the upraised arm holding a lighter at a live concert has received an upgrade. Instead of lighters, outstretched limbs hold aloft, like triumphant torches, countless digital cameras and cell phones to document the here and now to be saved and shared, seemingly forever, on the internet.

The videos in Perspectives in the Crowd are all documents of the same event: a live performance by the band Daft Punk at the 2006 Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California. They were gathered by contacting people who posted their personal footage on YouTube. I asked each person if they would give me permission to compile their raw data of the concert onto one DVD. Hailing from various parts of the U.S. and the world, these DIY documentarians came together for one night at Coachella, and they are reunited here via their shared recorded memory to present a night of their impressions.

The videos represent both a personal and collective experience, a position of subjectivity within a crowd while simultaneously presenting an objective, often unedited, view of the crowd and band. When compiled on one DVD and projected in succession in a public space, layers of experience are being added at every remove from the original site and experience—from a tent to a digital camera to the internet to a gallery. This contemporary transformation in how, we as viewers, process experience as both participant and recorder is changing our relationship to the present. As we transfer our memories to prosthetic devices and download them to a public forum it raises dozens of questions.

What does it mean to have so many people documenting the same event with different types of cameras from so many perspectives? How have technologies like digital cameras, cell phones, and sites like YouTube changed the way we individually and collectively experience the world around us? Does this way of documenting our own experiences help us to remember or does it usher in a new way to forget the moments between recorded images? Does it mean we capture and convey the ‘real’ experience or are we generating an entirely new reality?

ARTFORUM.COM review of the show:

“Perspectives in the Crowd” is a large-scale video projection comprising over fifty DIY audiovisual accounts of Daft Punk’s raucous 2006 performance at the Coachella Music Festival, all gathered from YouTube and spliced together by artist Tucker Neel. The effect of this unlikely project is mesmerizing and variously suggestive. Like much of the best performance documentation—think of Chris Burden’s early performance photographs or the Viennese Actionists’ fastidiously composed performance stills—this video compilation immediately establishes itself as ontologically distinct from the live source event. It is true that each digital video captures the same musical performance, but the resultant work is of an entirely different order; ultimately, Neel’s canny project is an autonomous aesthetic gesture only tenuously related to the spectacle that is its source. Agitated camera movement and digital pixelation conspire to render the stage a throbbing mass of light, screens, and speakers. The pounding of electronic beats cuts in and out, and only occasionally does the amateur camera operator succeed in training his or her lens on the two space-age druids elevated in the center of the stage, fiddling feverishly with a concealed control panel, their efforts generating a state of near hysteria in the audience. Neel’s work has a presentness entirely absent from most performance documentation. This presentness derives chiefly from that fact that Neel accepts the formal limitations of the medium he is working with, as well as the serendipities of novice camerawork, and exploits those characteristics to create a shimmering, largely abstract audiovisual spectacle that offers the viewer an entirely self-contained, entirely gripping experience.

—Christopher Bedford

William Pope L. at the Santa Monica Museum of Art

By Tucker Neel
Originally published in  Artillery Magazine. January 2008, vol.2 no.3, p. 40

Still from Pope L.s PHOV

Still from Pope L.'s PHOV

With Art After White People: Time, Trees, & Celluloid, Willliam Pope L. transforms The Santa Monica Museum of Art into a cavernous three-part journey bubbling over with theatricality and artifice. The Grove, the first section of the show, lures the viewer in with an ominous configuration of potted palm trees and piles of enshrouded debris dispersed in the darkened space. The scene is apocalyptic. The trees, painted white, decay and die throughout the run of the exhibition. A palm frond dangles from the ceiling as if to signal a world turned on its head. Faced with this dystopia, one cannot help but think of environmental disasters, Katrina being the first (but probably not the last).

Several hatches with small bulbous windows ringing the installation allow a glimpse into what looks like a horror-movie set. Archival boxes, stacked floor to ceiling, line narrow passageways awash with pools of fake blood. Pope L. has obscured the labels on each box, but the inference is clear – this is a claustrophobic, dangerous place, where information is meant to stay hidden.

Further into the exhibition comfy chairs and a large circular rug invite the viewer to sit and watch a projected movie. Opposite the screen and just behind the viewer a pile of household furnishings teeters in a corner, its interior contents illuminated by a television awash with static snow. The setting provides a fitting ominous mood for Pope L.’s newest video, PHOV, which stands for A Personal History of Videography.

The video consists of a solitary figure in a Donald Rumsfeld mask, his hand painted black, save one white finger, playing deliberately and slowly with a small ship in a glittery ocean diorama. As the camera pans and he looks at the archival boxes that surround him, holes just below each eye in his mask emit fake blood, which drips onto his shirt and into the diorama. With it’s cobbled together look, the piece seems to question the machinations that underpin commercial media, how this war (any war) is staged, as if to say that it’s not really Donald Rumsfeld the man that matters, but the contrived stage setting that gives him power.

Finishing off the show in a room separated from the rest of the exhibition by a wall of plastic sheeting are The Semen Pictures, light-box photographs of collaged body parts cut out of magazines, pasted together with blood, semen, pubic hair, and coffee grounds. Even though the original collages literally drip with abject traces of the artist’s production, the works appear beautiful, highly reductive and even conventional, especially when compared with other works in the show.

Does Pope L.’s work do anything more than point a finger at our naked emperors and their minions? It’s hard to say without the benefit of hindsight, but one would hope that such an ambitious project sticks in the viewer’s mind, a reminder to keep your eyes open to the backdrop, the mask, the decorations that support the smooth functioning of power.

Dan Flavin at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

By Tucker Neel

Originally published in Artillery Magazine Vol.2 No. 1, Sept. 2007

Dan Flavins monument 4 for those who have been killed in ambush (to P.K. who reminded me about death), 1966

Dan Flavin's monument 4 for those who have been killed in ambush (to P.K. who reminded me about death), 1966

One of the grandfathers of Minimalism and a forerunner of “installation art,” Dan Flavin’s ambitious environments were often very site-specific, designed to activate the experience of a certain place. In 2005 I had the pleasure of seeing his traveling retrospective at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Taken together in the context of a retrospective in the museum, Flavin’s work seems a little amputated, purely historical, pointing to an earlier place and time. Yet in DC, one piece, untitled (to you, Heiner, with admiration and affection) from 1973, stood out among the rest as a testament to Flavin’s lasting influence as an artist.

A long, four-foot-tall barricade made of rectangles of green fluorescent lights, the piece commanded a space near an expansive window on the second floor of I.M. Pei’s architectural masterpiece. While outside of the museum I was captivated by the work’s radioactive glow, it was positively the strangest thing I had ever seen in this rather conservative institution. Once I was inside, Flavin’s work dominated the museum, bathing everything with the slightest tinge of emerald green. When I got close to the sculpture it burned its chroma into my eyes, and when I looked away, I was surprised to find that the intense light shifted my vision. A pink haze suddenly coated everything in sight from Tony Smith’s Die sculpture, to Gerhard Richter’s nearby abstract squeegee painting. I was “looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses.” While the rest of the works in the exhibition testified to Flavin’s dogged pursuit of the formal and conceptual possibilities of fluorescent light, his medium of choice, nothing really seemed to measure up to the phenomenological intensity of that first green installation, its ability to completely change its surrounding’s visual and metaphorical meanings.

At the L.A.C.M.A. Flavin’s retrospective feels cool, calculated and better organized. Perhaps this is because L.A. is the last stop for the show, and the curators have worked out the kinks. While the DC show felt like a mortuary, the museum’s dark carpeting dulled his light and muffled the sound in each space, at LACMA Flavin’s light reflects off the gallery’s wooden floors and radiates across the walls. And thankfully at the L.A.C.M.A. his work is positioned perfectly so that light from one piece doesn’t spill into the space of another, a problem that was evident in the DC show where the work seemed cramped in the museum’s small galleries.

In both venues the retrospective begins with Flavin’s icons, his first works incorporating store-bought lights. The most formative of these is icon IV (the pure land) (to David John Flavin [1933-1962]) dated from 1962-1969. Here Flavin created a memorial to his dead twin brother out of a simple painted white box topped with a single modest florescent white light. With the icons, Flavin not only pioneered his use of titles to suggest something just outside of the self-referential fluorescent tube, he also began to explore the seemingly infinite formal possibilities inherit in the simple geometry of a glowing line.

With monument 4 for those who have been killed in ambush (to P.K. who reminded me about death) from 1966, Flavin employed this technique with phenomenal results. Consisting of a triangular construction of eight-foot-long lights positioned in the corner of a darkened room, the piece glows a deep impenetrable red and hangs ominously in the air like a flying bird, a stealth bomber, or a blast of light aimed right at the viewer’s retinas. The effect is undeniable. In its imposing and frankly disturbing light, one cannot help but project feelings of dread, loss, and fear onto the piece. Made in 1966, the piece is rooted in an scathing analysis of the Vietnam War yet, unsurprisingly, its deftly assertive title maintains its import today and will no doubt remain timely as long as the original conditions that gave it resonance remain in place.

In what is undoubtedly the most theatrical room in the show, the LACMA recreated three adjacent corridors Flavin designed for the E.F. Hauserman Co. showroom at the Pacific Design Center in 1982. The central passageway, untitled (to my dear bitch, Airily), is a 52 foot long corridor lined with dozens of equidistant eight-foot-long blue fluorescents positioned at tilted angles highlighting an altered perspectival view of the installation. Walking through this tunnel is like entering a fun-house; the experience is a little over the top, the sheer spectacle overwhelming, diminishing the subtle play of light and title so masterfully deployed in Flavin’s earlier works.

Bars of lights placed back to back against each other block two hallways on either side of this long blue corridor. One hallway houses pink and yellow lights, the other pink and green. Once inside the corridor one is bathed in light with a view of the other chamber and the other people in it. Depending on which side of the corridor one is standin.g, this installation causes the viewer’s appearance to change dramatically. While bathed in yellow, my pasty skin appeared jaundiced and sickly, but the pink light produced a flattering healthy glow. The sensation of watching others through the bars of light, and consequently being watched, was discomforting and no doubt a critical aspect of the work.

Maybe it’s just inevitable with a blockbuster retrospective like this but seeing all of Flavin’s works together makes them appear more like a shtick when originally they were well thought-out artistic interventions into specific architectural environments. I admire Flavin for being so dedicated to his medium and pushing the boundaries of what exactly could be called art during his lifetime. Any artist working today can learn a lot from him about how to activate space with the most economical of means. But I left both versions of his retrospective wishing I had been lucky enough to see the original installations back in the day instead of in their current reworked state.