Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
Publishing Multiples

Dan Flavin Installation view at Joni Weyl. Courtesy of GEMINI G.E.L.

We often view works of art as individual strokes of genius. This naïve interpretation of what art is stems from our lack of understanding of the artistic process, one that involves countless attempts at experimentation, countless drawings and preparatory sketches of the very idea we admire, even multiples of the same scene in the same medium (i.e. oil on painting, sculpture in bronze etc.).

The deeper we dig the greater the evidence becomes that what artists seek may indeed be perfection in multiples. Numerous examples throughout the history of art prove that this view is not that far fetched. Take Albrect Dürer for example, a master of drawing, painting, and prints; or consider Rembrandt, a master in etching (a technique that allowed him to develop his ideas to perfection), who is mostly known to the greater public for his oil paintings among which his famed portraits.

Our perception of contemporary artists has been molded to fit a similar narrow-minded view: the artist is seen and promoted as the creator of a unique piece of art, one that expresses the artist’s technical abilities as well as his intellectual acrobatics. But is it so? Hardly. It is the lesser known work of much celebrated conceptual artist, Dan Flavin, who made me ponder on what it means to publish art multiples.

Flavin, who became a student of art history first only to later shift his studies to drawing and painting, was constantly experimenting with ideas on paper. Some of these ideas took form in Flavin’s famous minimalist pieces of sculpture made of fluorescent light bulbs and known as “Icons.” The prolific production of these minimalist sculptures was the artist’s attempt to understand and define space through light. He accomplished this in three dimensions (in his sculptural work) and in two dimensions, on paper, with a limited edition of prints he produced in collaboration with GEMINI G.E.L, the Los Angeles based artists’ workshop that was founded in 1966 and that continues today as a publisher of limited edition prints and sculptures.

Looking at Flavin’s series of color prints on handmade paper makes one appreciate the artist’s preoccupation with space and void, especially void filled with color. The heavier margin at the top end of the print is reminiscent of Flavin’s fluorescent light tubes and allows for a different reading of the otherwise flat color print. But it also begets a more nuanced consumption of art, one that is based on its merit as process rather than product.

© Thomaï Serdari