Too much visual stimulation can be hazardous to your sense of perception, reality, and space-time, so unless you're sure you can stomach a complete altering of your relationship to lighting, do not go see the Dan Flavin retrospective currently at LACMA. It will blow your brain.
I'm admittedly partial to this sort of art, Minimalism, surrendering to the attraction we naturally have toward shape, color, and light. In the early 1960s, Flavin, a godfather of this movement, discovered a kind of aesthetic ecstasy in the simplicity of a single fluorescent light tube. He attached them to walls at elegant angles, or placed them in corners, or made geometric tube patterns, or horizontal "barriers" to slice a room in two. Flavin utilized different colors to create an effect where a space becomes saturated in an arresting glow; in the presence of a Flavin sculpture, it becomes difficult to tell where the art piece begins and where it ends. You don't want to leave it. You want to live with it.
There's something retro about Flavin now, of course, but I think the works feel as fresh and as radical as ever. In an era of overstimulation of every sort, exposure to an essential, almost primal kind of visual stimulus is like an act of ritual, of cleansing. (You also feel like you walked into "Tron," which is always nice.) The Flavin retrospective originated at the National Gallery of Art in Washington and has been shown in Forth Worth, Chicago, London, Paris, and Munich. Its final stop is L.A., where the last time we got a good dose of Flavin was at the excellent, sort of mind-bending survey of Minimalism at MOCA in 2004.
* Pictured on top, from the show: monument 4, for those who have been killed in ambush (to P.K. who reminded me about death), 1966. And above, the recreation of a massive 1982 installation, the show's centerpiece.