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White Gray Black

Dan Flavin (American, 1933–1996)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

American installation artist and painter. His father intended him to become a priest and from 1947 to 1952 he attended a seminary in Brooklyn, New York. In 1954 he studied at the University of Maryland Extension Program in Osan-Ni in Korea and in 1956 at the New College for Social Research in New York. He continued these art history studies in 1957–9 at Columbia University, New York, but was self-taught as an artist. His early work of the late 1950s and early 1960s was influenced by contemporary American art and included paintings with added objects, such as Africa (To Seventy-two Negroes) (1960; see 1969 exh. cat., p. 107), which incorporated a crushed metal can. Other works included poems and other texts set in gestural decorative designs, such as My Dove, my Beautiful One, Arise, Arise (1961; see 1969 exh. cat., p. 113), based on a poem by James Joyce. By 1961 Flavin had begun to make a number of Minimalist works using incandescent or fluorescent electric lights, such as Icon I (1961; see 1969 exh. cat., p. 125), which consisted of a monochrome painted wooden square with a fluorescent light mounted on the top edge. Both the title and the use of light bore religious connotations in the traditional association of light with the divine and sacred. He rapidly extended this technique into what became his mature style: installations, usually temporary, using white or coloured fluorescent light tubes, as well as a few autonomous and permanent works. The installation Untitled (To Elizabeth and Richard Koshalek) (1971; see 1973–4 exh. cat., p. 49), for example, which was installed at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN, consisted of a hall whose ceiling was covered by a rectilinear network of straight coloured tubes.

From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press


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