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Dan Flavin: Works from the 1960s

review - At Haunch of Venison, 6 Haunch of Venison Yard, London W1, until 16 March

One might arrive at Haunch of Venison, spy some graph-paper drawings, and assume the gallery was just riding the current Flavin wave, writes Morgan Falconer. But, ascending to the first and second floors, one enjoys the soft urbanity of his early coloured lights and the beginnings of his more spatial and sculptural approach, then two essential versions of the 'monument' for V Tatlin and, finally, Flavin's first extraordinary use of an unadorned bulb, The diagonal of May 25th, 1963. This is museum quality.

For all the pretty sophistication of a work like Untitled (to Mr and Mrs Giuseppe Agrati), with its column of pastel pink, green and yellow lights, Flavin seems like a Post-Modern primitivist, making cave art with lights. For that first red diagonal is bafflingly strange: neither a vertical suggestion of transcendence, nor a floor-hugging suggestion of collapse, it seems like a single expressive gesture but one totally without context. The 'monuments' may employ cooler white fluorescent light and strive for more verticality, but they too seem like ancient and impenetrable motifs.

We can never know what feelings Flavin had for the lucky dedicatees to his lights, but the emotional range of his sculptures is remarkable: sometimes elegant yet sometimes - no matter how bright the light - sombre. It is remarkable too how little the light diffuses: the sculptures hug their aura close to themselves, meaning that several works can complement each other well. They do that here sublimely, making this an unmissable show.

Morgan Falconer is a writer in London

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