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Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Long Road to Simplicity

When I wrote yesterday about Dan Flavin’s progression to simplicity I alluded to the general difficulty any artist faces while working through the process. To the casual viewer, it would appear to be easy for an artist to see into the heart of his or her working process, embrace that core, and then cut back everything but that. In reality, though, this process often takes significant time, effort, and struggle.

Included in the Flavin show is a very telling, small work on paper—a poem, actually. When he completed the piece, Flavin dated it at the bottom on the sheet: 10/2/61.

The poem has been used on an exhibition website and in gallery brochures, but one fact about it has been overlooked: Flavin wrote this a full year and a half before allowing himself to create a piece that was nothing more than a shimmering fluorescent pole.

Somehow, he knew what he wanted to do as early as 1961, but he didn’t allow himself to get there while working in his studio until May of 1963.

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