I think that art that doesn’t separate itself, that is integrated or can even be taken for granted to a certain extent, is the most interesting now to me...You don’t need museum labels or plaques.
Dan Flavin 1933–1996
Dan Flavin was a preeminent figure of Minimalism, known widely for his fluorescent light sculptures. Born in Jamaica, New York, Flavin first studied to join the priesthood followed by a stint in the military before successfully establishing himself as an artist in New York. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Flavin held a variety of positions – mailroom clerk, elevator operator, guard – at some of the city’s most prestigious art institutions including the Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art.
Flavin devised his first works incorporating electric lights in 1961; this series of assemblage “icons” combined canvas and lighting fixtures. Flavin dispensed with canvases in 1963, when he made his Diagonal of Personal Ecstasy (the Diagonal of May 25, 1963) with a single fluorescent yellow tube at a 45-degree angle. This was a monumental moment for Flavin, who went on to work almost exclusively with this type of commercially available lighting.
Over the next several decades, Flavin would expand his sculptural light installations to occupy entire galleries and museums. He made his first single large-scale installation for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in 1967. In 1983, he mounted a permanent exhibition of his works in a converted firehouse, today maintained as the Dan Flavin Art Institute by the Dia Center for the Arts. In 1992, he filled the Guggenheim Museum’s rotunda with his illuminating works, following a design that he had drafted more than 20 years earlier in 1971. Today, in addition to the Dia Center for the Arts, Flavin’s permanent “interventions” can be seen at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, and the church of Santa Maria Annunziata in Chiesa Rossa in Milan.
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