Thursday, May 31, 2012


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Dan Flavin was born in New York City in 1, and died on November , 16. Flavin studied art history at the New School for Social Research in New York City. Starting in 16 he exhibited both nationally and internationally. In 18 Dia Center for the Arts opened the Dan Flavin Institute in Bridgehampton, New York. And in 1 Flavin created a monumental installation for the reopening of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Flavin didn’t always plan on becoming an artist. In fact his father wanted him to become a priest, and he actually attended a seminary in Brooklyn, New York from 147 to 15.

Dan Flavin is one of the major representatives of minimalism, which is an artistic style that emerged in the sixties and was defined by Michael Craig-Martin in 18. In minimalism, perception alone took the place of three possibilities for understanding art; no representation, no metaphysics, and no metaphor. For Flavin it all started in 16 when he fixed a fluorescent light to the wall of his studio and entitled it “ The Diagonal of Personal Ecstasy (The Diagonal of May 5, 16)”. This piece determined the artistic material he would use as well as his method for the rest of his life.

There are few artists that are so identified with any one specific medium, outside of painting, or sculpture, like Flavin. Except for drawings, or prints all of Flavin’s work consist of light in the form of commercially available fluorescent tubes in nine colors, and five shapes. Since his medium is limited in size, color, and shape, he often used lights in relationship to a specific architectural context. When asked what art has been for him Flavin replied “I have known it as a sequence of implicit decisions to combine traditions of painting and sculpture in architecture with acts of electric light defining space”. (artcyclopedia.com)


There were three defining moments in Flavin’s career as an installation artist-his first invention of fluorescent light art in 16, his free-standing work created in 170, and the staircase work in 16. Flavin believed there was an aesthetic with the diversity of artificial light. The simplicity, yet systematic character of his world-renowned work, has earned him a reputation as a chief exponent of minimalism, even though he never accepted the label. Even though Flavin studied at some of the finest colleges and universities, he was self-taught as an artist. A lot of Flavin’s earlier pieces were influenced by contemporary American art, and included things like poems, and other texts in the paintings.

Flavin’s style of art is, and has been, a very distinct and energetic style. One set of his works known as “barriers” were linear arrangements of freestanding fluorescent fixtures that literally blocked physical access across the room. One of the most unique aspects of Flavin’s light works is the manner in which they reflect over the walls around them. The invention of the barrier is a literal extension of that idea whereby the light’s environmental presence is made known by its occupance of the gallery’s central space. This makes for a great effect to the viewer because it represents a sense of invasion into the viewers territory. By means of fluorescent light, Flavin established a connection between opposing terms; the literal and the icon. The light of the icon is not a light that indirectly illuminates a scene to be represented, but one that radiates through the object itself. Flavin’s work is most definitely something that must be seen in person, due to the fact that the perspective of the room and spatial context with the lighting is one that cannot be reproduced in a photograph published in a book. Flavin’s use of color both of the lights and color of the room is magnificent. In a lot of his pieces he just uses white lights and paints the room a bright color so the lights produce a radiating glow which makes them the focal point. Dan Flavin explained the ideas behind his installations like this “ I knew that the actual space of a room could be broken down and played with by planting illusions of real light (electric light) at crucial junctures in the room’s composition. For example, if you press an eight-foot fluorescent lamp into the vertical climb of a corner, you can destroy that corner by glare and doubled shadow. A piece of wall can be visually disintegrated from the whole into a separate triangle by plunging a diagonal of light from edge to edge on the wall; that is, side to floor for instance.”

When asked about things that bother him or that he would prefer not to exist Flavin replied “…I do not like the term ‘environment’ associated with my proposal. It seems to me to imply living conditions and perhaps an invitation to comfortable residence….Also I intend rapid comprehensions-get in and get out situations. I think that one has explicit moments with such particular light-space…and before I forget, please do not refer to my effort as sculpture and to me as a sculptor. I do not handle and fashion three-dimensioned still works,….I feel apart from problems of sculpture and painting but, there is no need to re-tag me and my part.”

After reviewing Flavin’s work, I am an instant fan. The ideas he was able to develop in his mind, and the feelings he was able to convey are incredible. He is greatly recognized for what he contributed to the Minimalist idea of art, and has been honored in many different ways. He broke out into a world that was unfamiliar with his style of art, and not only introduced it to them but helped them understand and like it. For that he will be greatly appreciated and remembered for a long time to follow. “The Architecture of Light”, Dan Flavin. 1 The Soloman R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.



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