Dan Flavin

1933 - 1996 · United States

Artist biography

Dan Flavin was an American Minimalist artist known for his sculptural works comprising of commercially available fluorescent lights. His instantly recognisable geometric sculptures investigated the qualities of architectural space and light, and secured his reputation as a pioneer of Minimalism.

Born in New York in 1933, Flavin did not initially pursue an artistic career. He studied for priesthood in Brooklyn between 1947 and 1952, before enlisting in the United States Airforce in 1954. During his military service in Korea he studied art through an adult programme from the University of Maryland, which led him to study painting and drawing at the Hans Hofmann School for Fine Arts and Columbia University in New York.

Flavin’s pieces, or as he liked to call them, ‘situations’, aimed to highlight the architecture of a space or structure by flooding it with coloured light. He denied the existence of any symbolic or spiritual meaning to his works, stating that ‘It is what it is and it ain't nothing else’. In the 1980s, as his works grew larger and more complex, renowned galleries such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin would offer spaces to him to create sculptural ‘interventions’ for, which further developed his exploration of the relationship of light with architecture and space.

Best known for his series of works ‘Monuments to V. Tatlin’, consisting of over 30 pyramidal pieces, Flavin has been recognised by many major institutions, and has held retrospective shows at the National Gallery of Canada and Ottawa, Kunsthalle Basel and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. He also undertook commissions for public works, including an installation at Grand Central Station in New York in 1976.

Dan Flavin

  • Exhibitions 15
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