534 W 21st Street
NEW YORK—The Paula Cooper Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of sculpture by Dan Flavin. The exhibition will consist entirely of white fluorescent light works, and will run from 3 May through 30 June, 2003.
Dan Flavin was born in Jamaica, New York, on April 1, 1933. In the mid-1950’s, he briefly attended the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts and studied art under the tutelage of American painter Albert Urban. He also took drawing and painting classes at Columbia University and studied art history at the New School for Social Research. Flavin’s first works were drawings and paintings that reflected the influence of Abstract Expressionism. In 1959, he began to make assemblages and collages, and his first one-person show of assemblages and watercolors was held at the Judson Gallery, New York, in 1961.
Later that year, Flavin started to make sketches for sculptures in which electric lights were incorporated. His interest in the possibilities offered by light fixtures grew, and he experimented for some time with attaching light fixtures to painted wooden constructions. On May 25, 1963, however, he installed a single 8-foot fluorescent tube at a 45° angle on the wall of his studio, declaring it “the diagonal of personal ecstasy.” He writes: “There was no need to compose this lamp in place; it implanted itself directly, dynamically, dramatically in my workroom wall—a buoyant and relentless gaseous image which, through brilliance, betrayed its physical presence into approximate invisibility.” The following year, two one-person shows introduced his work in this new medium: Some Light, at the Kaymar Gallery, New York (March 1964) and fluorescent light, at the Green Gallery, New York (November 1964). Over the next decades, his sculpture continued to only employ commercially available, standard light fixtures, exploring ways of diffusing color, framing light and engaging architectural space, and developing such forms as “corner pieces”, “barriers” and “corridors.” In 1968, he outlined an entire gallery in ultraviolet light at Documenta in Kassel.
The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, organized a travelling retrospective of Flavin’s work in 1969. In 1973, the Saint Louis Art Museum presented two concurrent exhibitions of his works on paper and fluorescent sculptures. Among Flavin’s significant one-person exhibitions in Europe were shows in Basel in 1975, Baden-Baden in 1989 and Frankfurt in 1993. He has executed many commissions, including the lighting of several tracks at Grand Central Station in New York in 1976.
In 1983, the Dia Center for the Arts opened the Dan Flavin Art Institute in Bridgehampton, New York, a permanent exhibition of his works, designed by the artist in a converted firehouse. Flavin also created a monumental installation for the reopening of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1992. One of the artist’s last site-specific works is the sculpture permanently illuminating two stairwells of Dia’s main Chelsea building (1996). His luminous installation in the Santa Maria in Chiesa Rossa, Milan, opened posthumously in 1997. Flavin died on November 29, 1996.
Jonathan Crary proposes that Dan Flavin’s art “permits nostalgia for the transcendence of pictorial space but keeps us situated in a world of material operations and procedures.” The following short poem, written by Flavin at the very beginning of his career, suggests that Flavin would concur.
(Dan Flavin, October 2, 1961)