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Dan Flavin's neon tubes may be beatified as one of the great ideas of 20th-century art. But he is one of the most old-fashioned, as well as radical, of modern artists

By Ben Lewis   March 2005

For 30 years—from the mid-1960s until his premature death in 1996—Dan Flavin made art with fluorescent tubes, the kind that you can buy in any DIY store. You will have seen his work, because most museums have got a Flavin somewhere. He used different coloured neon—white, blue, red and yellow—and made different arrangements of them. The lights might be positioned in a corner, vertically or diagonally, or set at different intervals along the length of a wall. There might be a combination of colours, or just one. The work is raw, its meaning opaque: at first sight, a radical non-art…

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