Fashioning Art: Richard Nicoll and Dan Flavin

Richard Nicoll Spring 2015 and Untitled (1976), Dan Flavin [Image taken from Fash of the Titans]

Richard Nicoll Spring 2015 and Untitled (1976), Dan Flavin [Image taken from Fash of the Titans]

The American artist Dan Flavin is known for his signature fluorescent light tubes. The stark aesthetic that can be observed in Flavin’s light sculptures often situated him with other pioneers of Minimalism, such as Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and Carl Andre. However, Flavin rejected the Minimalist label that was conferred upon him, emphasising the inescapably ephemeral and material qualities of his work. Flavin instead branded himself a ‘Maximalist’. His early work was inspired by Dada and the legacy of Duchamp’s readymades. His earliest work from his Icons series featured light bulbs attached to handmade constructions made of materials like wood and Formica.

Diagonal of May 25, 1963 (1963), Dan Flavin [Image from National Gallery of Art

Diagonal of May 25, 1963 (1963), Dan Flavin [Image from National Gallery of Art]

The artist’s breakthrough moment where he began to shift his practice to focus solely on the material qualities of fluorescent light came in 1963, with Diagonal of May 25, 1963. The earliest iteration of this work, rendered in yellow fluorescence, paid homage to Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column. Inspired by Duchamp, throughout his practice up until that point, Flavin searched for a simple object with which to ground his practice. With this work, Flavin realised the immense potential of the simple industrial fluorescent bulb as an elemental form that could be repeated and built upon ad infinitum, similar to the golden geometric building block Brancusi used to construct his towering column. Flavin’s preoccupation with the diagonal referenced the early abstractionist school of thought of artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Theo Van Doesburg, who utilized the dynamism of the diagonal in their work. As opposed to the Minimalists that Flavin was classified together with, who sought a sublime, pure abstraction, Diagonal of May 25, 1963 began Flavin’s celebration of movement and impermanence through his chosen medium of light and the geometric form of the diagonal. Focusing on exploiting the potential of harsh industrial fluorescent lights and the way they inevitably burn out, Flavin embraced a strict brand of anti-aestheticism. Despite traditional associations with the concept of light with religion and epiphany, and the ethereal glow of Flavin’s fluorescent tubes against the stark white walls that provided the setting for them, the artist emphatically denied the possibilities of the transcendental and symbolic in his works, stating, “It is what it is and it ain’t nothing else.”

Richard Nicoll’s Spring 2015 collection provided for the show’s attendees an equally unexpected experience. The London-based designer has become known for his clean, modernist designs. However, Nicoll’s Spring 2015 collection was sponsored by Disney, an unlikely collaborator. The Disney sponsorship inspired Nicoll to explore the character Tinker Bell, as the designer searched for a contemporary equivalent of the eternally youthful fairy, who he eventually found in Kate Moss. The collection was thus inspired by Moss’ iconic looks, featuring fluid bias-cut evening dresses like the one in the main image above. Tinkerbell herself appeared in the opening look of the collection, in a languid slip dress illuminated with gossamer fibre optic lights produced in collaboration with Studio XO, the London-based costumers who have worked with stars such as Lady Gaga.

Opening look from the Richard Nicoll Spring 2015 collection [Image taken from Vogue]

Opening look from the Richard Nicoll Spring 2015 collection [Image taken from Vogue]

 The ethereal effect of the Tinker Bell-inspired opening look was translated in the collection with glimmering diaphanous fabrics with glinting blues and silvers. Like Flavin’s light sculptures interacting with their surroundings, Nicoll’s creations explored the material effects of light playing off different textures and fabrics. In a similar vein, Nicoll’s spring looks, despite their otherworldly appearance, were underpinned by counter-intuitive sources of inspiration of Tinker Bell, created by the multinational corporation Disney, and cutting-edge fibre optic technology. Like Flavin, Nicoll’s Spring 2015 collection is resolutely ‘Maximalist’ for all its simple fluidity.
Main image taken from Fash of the Titans

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