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Artists Dan Flavin
Dan Flavin Photo

Dan Flavin

American Sculptor

Movements and Styles: Minimalism, Op Art

Born: April 1, 1933 - Jamaica, New York

Died: November 29, 1996 - Riverhead, New York

Dan Flavin Timeline

Quotes

"There are lots of aspects that come up and you're only partially conscious of them. That's the freedom of art. People are going to experience what you do as they have to, and perhaps not as you might best like to direct them according to your own sense of place. Just as well."
Dan Flavin
"One might not think of light as a matter of fact, but I do. And it is, as I said, as plain and open and direct an art as you will ever find."
Dan Flavin
"I like art as thought better than art as work. I've always maintained this. It's important to me that I don't get my hands dirty. It's not because I'm instinctively lazy. It's a declaration: art is thought."
Dan Flavin
"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."
Dan Flavin
"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."
Dan Flavin

"It's electric current with a switch - dubious."

Dan Flavin Signature

Synopsis

Few artists can boast having explored a single medium, and an unusual one at that, as tenaciously and consistently as Dan Flavin with his signature fluorescent light tubes. Classified within the Minimalist framework, Flavin saw himself as vehemently "Maximalist." That is, in using readymade objects in the style of Dadaist Marcel Duchamp, he exploited the possibilities of the most banal and in some ways ugly material: harsh fluorescent lights - surely the stuff of futuristic anti-aestheticism. Flavin began incorporating electric lights into his works in the early 1960s with his breakthrough Icons series. Having hit upon his chosen medium, he abandoned painting altogether, focusing on light works for the remainder of his career, where he produced installations and sculptural pieces made exclusively of fluorescent light fixtures and tubes that came in a limited range of colors and sizes. Working with prefabricated rather than hand-crafted materials allowed Flavin to focus on the light itself and the way in which it transformed ("sculpted") the exhibition space. A clear progression in scale and ambition marks Flavin's site-specific light installations, sculptural and architectural environments commissioned by a wide-range of artistic and religious institutions for the rest of his career.

Key Ideas

Dan Flavin emphatically denied that his sculptural light installations had any kind of transcendent, symbolic, or sublime dimension, stating: "It is what it is and it ain't nothing else," and that his works are simply fluorescent light responding to a specific architectural setting. Despite Flavin's insistence on this, it is possible to view individual pieces in terms of implied narratives. Potential associations with the concept of light - from religious conversion to intellectual epiphanies - are rife in Flavin's work, whether or not such interpretations are encouraged by the artist himself.
Flavin's light "propositions," which he did not consider sculptures, are made up of standardized, commercially available materials, much like the readymades by Marcel Duchamp that Flavin admired. Further, the materials Flavin used are perishable, their limited lifecycles anything but timeless. In this way, the artist emphasized the ephemeral nature of his works, positioning his art outside the realm of connoisseurship, where art objects are valued as much for their material qualities as for their conceptual meaning.
The tendency to privilege pre-fabricated industrial materials and simple, geometric forms together with the emphasis placed on the physical space occupied by the artwork and the viewer's interaction with it aligns Flavin's work with that of other Minimalist artists. His emphasis on light and its effects, however, align him as strongly with Op art, whose practitioners explored variations in color and shape based on differences in light. But, in some regards, Flavin went much further than the Op art painters by taking the fundamental concepts of the style and translating them into sculpture that demonstrated in three dimensions what the paintings could only aspire to communicate. The optical effects painters achieved could only fool the eye by alluding to movement, whereas Flavin's light waves demonstrated how the two-dimensional illusionism was achieved - light was color, color was light, and the interaction of either created the illusion of dynamism as they played against, or in harmony with, one another and in their environment.

Biography

Dan Flavin Photo

Childhood

Daniel Flavin grew up in a modest Queens neighborhood, raised by Catholic parents. Both he and his twin brother, David, went to parochial school and attended church services regularly. Serving as an acolyte, Daniel was impressed by the ceremony, the dramatic costumes of the celebrants, the music, and the lighting of high funeral mass. The brothers entered the high school of the Immaculate Conception Preparatory Seminary together in 1947, although Daniel's feelings about religion remained ambivalent.

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Dan Flavin Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Dan Flavin
Interactive chart with Dan Flavin's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Vladimir TatlinVladimir Tatlin
Constantin Brâncu?iConstantin Brâncu?i
Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp
Jasper JohnsJasper Johns
Frank StellaFrank Stella

Personal Contacts

Donald JuddDonald Judd
Sol LeWittSol LeWitt
Lucy LippardLucy Lippard
Robert RymanRobert Ryman

Movements

Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism
MinimalismMinimalism

Influences on Artist
Dan Flavin
Dan Flavin
Years Worked: 1963 - 1996
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Donald JuddDonald Judd
Robert IrwinRobert Irwin
Jennifer SteinkampJennifer Steinkamp
James TurrellJames Turrell

Personal Contacts

Heiner FriedrichHeiner Friedrich
Dan GrahamDan Graham
Rosalind KraussRosalind Krauss

Movements

Conceptual ArtConceptual Art
Land ArtLand Art
Environmental ArtEnvironmental Art

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Tracy DiTolla

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Tracy DiTolla
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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