The Diagonal of May 25, 1963 by Dan Flavin

Who’s the artist? Dan Flavin

What am I looking at? A bluish fluorescent light

When was it made? 🤔🤷

Where is it right, right now? The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


Ok… Why is that so important?

Dan Flavin’s first show was made entirely of fluorescent lights just like this. It was important because he specifically meant to use industrial materials in a fine art setting, which was a relatively unexplored idea at the time.

To me, these are the really interesting things to consider:

  • When the museum is closed and all the lights are turned off, this artwork is probably unplugged as well… then what happens? Does it lose its magic like in Pinocchio and it’s just a fluorescent light again?
  • Where exactly is the ART happening? Maybe on the wall, because the light diffuses in a nice way? Or is it the actual rod?
  • If we went to The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, what would we actually be looking at? Version 2, 3, 4? There’s no way that the original light would still have worked after all these years. Is that cheating?

Because of all these questions he provokes, his entire body of work has been very successful. People generally like his exhibitions because they become somewhat aware of the intangible and short lasting nature of light and color through the use of industrial materials. Usually, this awareness only occurs when people see the sun rise and set.

In more recent exhibitions, people usually go because his work is instagrammable.

Some writers, like Anna Chave, think that this artwork makes reference to an erect penis because it’s bright (SO HOT) and rod-shaped (OOH SEXY). She thinks he may be *ehem*… asserting himself in a dominating, perhaps even aggressive way because he’s showing you his 🍆 without your immediate understanding or consent.

Minimalism as a whole tends to be seen through this hyper-sexualized lense but in my opinion, that tells you more about the writer than the work of art. I can see how you might come to that conclusion but it’s up to you if you feel like you’re being assaulted.

Hospitals, schools, and other dreary institutions use fluorescent lighting because it’s cheap. I’m sure you’ve noticed that it’s usually very draining to be in a room lit like that. One of the functions of fine art is to inspire, so the fact that someone could make such an intriguing artwork out of an everyday object is pretty impressive. This is called recontextualization because he uses an everyday object in such a way that makes you think about it differently.

Dan Flavin is super weird about people using photos of his work so I modified it for the banner since this is for educational purposes, it should be fine. Definitely feel free to check out the artwork here.




Edited 2-11-2018 to improve grammar

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