Exploiting the possibilities of the most banal material and extracting it from its utilitarian context and inserting it into the world of high art that results in a straightforward simplicity and deep sophistication, the American minimalist artist, Dan Flavin, is best known for his seminal installation of light fixtures.
Famous for his signature fluorescent light tubes, Flavin was born on April 1, 1933, in Jamaica, New York. He showed an interest in art during his early adulthood, and went on to study at the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts before attending Columbia University.
Flavin's early drawings and paintings explored tonal qualities and reflected an interest in Abstract Expressionism. His experimentation with found objects led to a series of mixed media assemblages, such as “Apollinaire Wounded” (1959-60). Working exclusively with florescence by 1961, Flavin constructed “Icons”, which were first exhibited in Flavin's 1964 solo exhibition at Kaymar Gallery.
By 1963, Flavin had eliminated canvas, using only fluorescent bulbs. Between 1964- 1990, he constructed a total of 39 “Monuments”, dedicated to Russian Constructivist artist, Vladimir Tatlin. In 1969, Flavin's first first retrospective opened at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. The exhibition showcased eight installations that he referred as “Situations”, signifying his intention to create an all-encompassing experience.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Flavin continued to develop more complex iterations of the “barriers” and “corridors” and concentrated on large scale installations, such as the lightening form for Munich Olympics, a permanent installation space at Dick's Castle in Garrison, New York, a design for pedestrian tunnels in Amsterdam, and a lobby installation at the World Trade Center.
In 1992, Flavin designed an extensive light installation for the opening of the new Guggenheim building. Other major projects include the installations at the Chiesa di Santa Maria Annunziata in Milan, and the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, both ultimately completed by his studio in 1996.
Flavin's dedication to simple forms, use of industrial materials and symbolic meaning had a profound impact on the Minimalist generation of artists, notably including Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt. A prominent collection of his work is preserved at the Dia Art Foundation in upstate New York.Flavin died in Riverhead, New York, on November 29, 1996.