Matrix 259. On view a site-specific work consisted of 28 green fluorescent light bulbs installed in the building's lightwell, whose glow engulfed the stairway below and spilled out into the main lobby.
The work of San Francisco–based art group Will Brown—a collaborative project of David Kasprzak, Jordan Stein, and Lindsey White—reimagines the roles of artist and curator through an inventive upending of traditional exhibition formats. In making its work, the collective often mines little known or forgotten artistic and cultural histories. Inspired by enigmatic stories about a site-specific installation by Dan Flavin at BAM/PFA from the late seventies, Will Brown’s MATRIX exhibition unfolds in a series of events and locations: an artist book displayed in UC Berkeley’s Morrison Library; a seemingly abandoned car positioned in front of the now closed Bancroft Way entrance to BAM/PFA; a light installation on the building’s roof; and a theatrical production by Bay Area poet and playwright Kevin Killian, which will launch the project on June 12.
For MATRIX 259, Will Brown takes inspiration from BAM/PFA’s 1978 presentation of Dan Flavin: Drawings, Diagrams, Prints and Installations in Fluorescent Light. The exhibition, part of which was organized by the Fort Worth Museum, included a site-specific work made by the Minimalist artist for BAM/PFA’s main public stairway. Flavin’s untitled (for Gretchen, a colorful and fond match) consisted of 28 green fluorescent light bulbs installed in the building’s lightwell, whose glow engulfed the stairway below and spilled out into the main lobby. The piece remained installed after the close of the exhibition and was finally removed sometime in the 1980s. Will Brown spoke to several past BAM/PFA employees and worked with current staff to reconstruct the elusive narratives surrounding Flavin’s work, particularly regarding the ethereal green glow that could also be seen on the building’s exterior as a column of light that radiated through the skylight.
Building upon the history of Flavin’s work and the mythic status it subsequently assumed, Will Brown uses the trope of the green light as a conceptual and formal link for each of the three components of MATRIX 259, as well as a metaphorical beacon for the memories that remain of it. The group re-creates effects of Flavin’s fluorescent work with a light and fog installation on the BAM/PFA roof. Additionally, an old car positioned in front of the now-closed main entrance—filled with copies from BAM/PFA’s archives—further serves as a metaphor for the institution in transition, as BAM/PFA prepares to move out of its current building to its new location in downtown Berkeley. “It’s a kind of a paper trail both personally and institutionally,” Will Brown explains.
A New Light on Riboflavin, a newly commissioned play by Killian, amplifies the sense of fiction and mystery now embedded in Flavin’s lost work. The exhibition also includes an artist book that functions as a “living archive” of the project and emanates green light upon opening, which will remain on display in UC Berkeley’s Morrison Library throughout the duration of the exhibition.
Artist book display
Morrison Library: 101 Doe Library, UC Berkeley
Free and open to the public
Hours: June 12 to August 19: Monday–Friday noon–5pm (closed Friday, July 3)
August 20 to September 11: Monday–Friday 10am–5pm (closed Monday, September 7)
Image: Interior view of the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, c. 1978. The green light in the stairway is from Dan Flavin’s untitled (for Gretchen, a colorful and fond match), 1977–78. Photo: Colin McCrae.
Press Contact: Peter Cavagnaro, firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening: June 12, 7pm
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA)
Woo Hon Fai Hall
2626 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA 94720