Dan Flavin


Dan Flavin (b. 1933, Jamaica, New York; d. 1996, Riverhead, New York) is an American installation artist and painter famous for creating minimalist sculptures using commercially available fluorescent light tubes. An autodidact, Flavin studied history of art and had very little formal education in painting. After early experiments in the Abstract Expressionist style, Flavin conceived of his Iconsseries in 1961. The Icons consist of incandescent and fluorescent bulbs attached to square, wall-mounted boxes, often made of wood, Formica, or Masonite. In 1963, Flavin exhibited a fluorescent tube placed diagonally on a gallery wall and his mature style was born. Flavin created many installations with fluorescent lighting, notably in Kassel for Documenta 4 (1968), and at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum rotunda in 1971. Flavin disputed descriptions of his work as belonging to the Minimalist movement, yet he remained close friends with Donald Judd, Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt.


After serving in the US Air Force as a technician in Korea (1954-55), Flavin returned to New York and attended art history classes at the New School for Social Research (1956) and Columbia University (1957-1959). In 1961 he had his first solo exhibition at the Judson Gallery, New York. Flavin exhibited nationally and internationally from 1963 onward: the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (1966) and the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, (1968). Flavin's first single large-scale installation was made for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1967). In 1969 his retrospective exhibition opened at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, travelling to the Vancouver Art Gallery, British Columbia, and to the Jewish Museum in New York City. From its inception in 1974, the Dia Art Foundation acquired numerous works by Flavin and supported larger projects at the Kunstmuseum Basel (1975); at New York's Grand Central Station (1977); and a permanent installation at the Baptist Church in Bridgehampton, New York (The Dan Flavin Art Institute) (1983). Permanent installations, completed after his death are at the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas (1998) and at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas (2000). Recently a retrospective was held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., touring to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Hayward Gallery, London, and the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2004-2007).

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