Dan Flavin, untitled (to Henri Matisse), 1964, Pink, yellow, blue, and green fluorescent light, 244cm, Private collection, New York, Photograph Billy Jim, Courtesy Dia Art Foundation.
Dan Flavin, pink out of a corner (to Jasper Johns), 1963, Pink fluorescent light, 244 cm, Collection Stephen Flavin, Photograph Billy Jim, courtesy Dia Art Foundation.
Dan Flavin, icon V (Coran's Broadway Flesh), 1962, oil on cold gesso on Masonite, porcelain receptacles, pull chains, and clear incandescent "candle" bulbs, 41-5/8 x 41-5/8 x 9-7/8", Private collection, New York, Photo: Bill Jacobson, New York, © Stephen Flavin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Modern and Contemporary Art Building
Dan Flavin: A Retrospective
May 13-August 12, 2007
Dan Flavin: A Retrospective, the first comprehensive exhibition devoted to minimalist artist Dan Flavin’s full career. Regarded as one of the most innovative artists of his generation, Flavin is best known for creating art almost entirely of commercially-available fluorescent light tubes. Although he used common materials, Flavin’s art is complex in design and often relates to specific architectural contexts. Co-curated by Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, and Tiffany Bell, Director of the Dan Flavin catalogue raisonné, the exhibition features more than forty of Flavin’s seminal fluorescent light works. Also presented is a special reconstruction of the corridors made for the E.F. Hauserman Co. showroom, formerly located at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles.
“Perhaps because Flavin is known so well as one of the founders of minimalism, his work has rarely been considered in all of its breadth and innovation before this retrospective,” said Michael Govan, LACMA Director. “Flavin was one of the inventors of what we now know as ‘installation art’ and his groundbreaking use of color and light in architecture has been emulated not only in art, but in design and architecture. I count him among the most important figures in twentieth century art.”
Organized by Dia Art Foundation in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Dan Flavin: A Retrospective showcases the chronological development of Flavin's work over the course of 30 years, demonstrating the various means through which he experimented with light, color, seriality, and the coordinates of interior space. The exhibition includes the full range of his work, many of which are specifically dedicated to modernist predecessors and contemporary artists who inspired him, such as Constantin Brancusi, Jasper Johns, Donald Judd, and Henri Matisse. Other dedications reveal Flavin’s commitment to the politics of his time and his attempt to reinvent the genre of the commemorative monument.
Some of Flavin’s early works, such as his “icons” series made from 1961 to 1963, feature several constructed boxes with attached incandescent or fluorescent lights. Works such as icon I (the heart) (to the light of Sean McGovern which blesses everyone) (1961–62) signifies Flavin’s invention of an object that is neither a painting nor sculpture yet incorporates elements of both. Later, the artist moved into his most recognized style of art composed solely of fluorescent light. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s readymade, the diagonal of May 25, 1963 (to Constantin Brancusi) (1963) is the first example of Flavin’s utilization of standardized, unaltered light tubes and comprises a yellow, eight-foot long fluorescent bulb available from hardware stores in prefabricated lengths and colors.
In 1964, Flavin dedicated a series of works to Russian Constructivist Vladimir Tatlin. His well-known “monuments” to V. Tatlin (1964–1981) mimics Tatlin’s ideas of Utopian architecture, and comprises the chief examples of Flavin’s principles of seriality and permutation. The range of Flavin's content is represented by pieces that include political subjects, such as monument 4 for those who have been killed in ambush (to P.K. who reminded me about death) (1966), an installation of four red fluorescent lights in the form of a crossbow that exude a powerful, but dim, bloodlike glow to commemorate the Vietnam War.
At each venue, the exhibition has been reshaped in content and presentation in relation to the architecture and opportunities that the spaces have provided. In Los Angeles, the exhibition will include a major reconstruction of three spectacular corridors Flavin made for the E.F. Hauserman Co. showroom—presented together for the first time since they were dismantled in 1984. Architects and designers Massimo and Lella Vignelli collaborated with Flavin to create a space for the showroom that evoked a dynamic architectural experience. For two of the corridors, Flavin places fluorescent lights at mid-point to bar the viewer from passing through them. One end of the corridor is yellow and pink, while the other end is green and yellow. The central corridor is open from one end to the other, and completely blue with angled light fixtures on the walls and ceiling. The installation opened at the Pacific Design Center in March, 1982, to great acclaim. Upon its dismantling, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles acquired one of the corridors, which will be included in LACMA’s presentation.
Dan Flavin was born on April 1, 1933, in New York City. In the mid 1950s, he served in the U.S. Air Force as a meteorological technician in Korea. Afterward, he returned to New York to take various art classes at the Hans Hoffman School of Fine Arts, New School for Social Research, and Columbia University. While at Columbia in 1959, he began to make assemblages and collages. This lead to his first solo exhibition in 1961 at the Judson Gallery in New York, and later that same year, he began experimenting with the “icons.”
Flavin’s use of unadorned fluorescent light placed him at the forefront of a generation of artists, including Donald Judd, Carl Andre, and Robert Morris. He became known as the progenitor of minimal art through inclusion in key group exhibitions such as Black, White, and Gray at the Wadsworth Atheneum in 1964 and Primary Structures at the Jewish Museum in New York City in 1966. He was featured in the Minimal Art exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague in 1968, and continued to exhibit nationally and internationally until his death in 1996 of complications from diabetes.