The name Dan Flavin is unknown in terms of an ‘ordinary man’. For artists, it is a term, where we immediately imagine different coloured exhibits, never-ending luminous exhibitions in a variety of colours.
At the end of the 2012 I took a trip to Wien to see an exhibition bearing the name of the famous minimalist artist Dan Flavin. In 1960,Dan Flavin began using commercially available fluorescent tubes in standard sizes and colours to create an unmistakable oeuvre. Precision and careful calculations are bound together with a sensual aura. By choosing the tubes as the material for his works, Flavin signalised the increasing proximity of art with everyday life and the consumer world.
Dan Flavin was an American minimalist artist born in Jamaica. During his life Dan worked at many places where he travelled around the world. In 1956, when he came back to New York he attended the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, studying art under Albert Urban. He later studied art history for a short time at the New School for Social Research, then moved on to Columbia University, where he studied painting and drawing. From 1959, Flavin was shortly employed as a mailroom clerk at the Guggenheim Museum and later as guard and elevator operator at the Museum of Modern Art, where he met Sol LeWitt, Lucy Lippard, and Robert Ryman. Two years later, he married his first wife Sonja Severdija, an art history student at New York University and assistant office manager at the Museum of Modern Art. Flavin married his second wife, the artist Tracy Harris, in a ceremony at the Guggenheim Museum, in 1992. Flavin died in Riverhead, New York of complications from diabetes. His estate is represented by David Zwirner, New York.
The exhibition took place on 4 floors, with every floor representing different parts of his work.
The viewer is deprived of sight when first entering. Huge squares leading to white walls create absorbing geometric objects which are constantly changing your point of view. The squares have strength to create optical illusions yet give the viewer feelings of sickness. The enormous white walls of squares give impression of dominance, which imaginatively remind viewers of Star Wars. Many people wearing star wars t-shirt just confirmed it.
On another floor I was faced with a man sitting on the floor in the middle of the white space with cold white luminous tubes. It reminded me of the Empire State Building or the figure on the ladies restroom doors. I asked myself ‘why he is not sitting on the benches?’,’ why on the floor?’. While I was thinking he lay down. I could not stop staring at him. It seemed like a very good performance with Flavin’s work. After a few minutes of rather staring at him rather than on the works I realised the power of the space, the lights, they made you to stop and concentrate on their power and you allowed them to play with your feelings.
Opalescence continued through the whole exhibition which allowed leaving some kind of message to be left from Dan Flavin. That message was for me personally to understand the game of the shadows, their importance, and inspiration in different forms of light. Every floor personally affected me differently and every part of me created an unmistakable game of emotions, where these lights and shadows managed to play that game. it was like walking through an illuminated alley, where every point of view let your personality shine brighter or darker.
Dan Flavin and his work left me a message that I will try to work with and apply it in my work in the future. The game of shadows and light, for me personally, took a different meaning, and I will definitely try to make it clear. Whether I will be inspired by dark corridors with massive white walls on which were hung pink, green or yellow lights, or by the place of a little theatre full of emotions he left in me.
In conclusion I would like to say, YES, I am still fascinated and slightly taken aback by the light visualization of Dan Flavin who I moved on the top of my personal favourite artists’ ladder.
space & work