Flavin began to use commercially available fluorescent light tubes in 1963 as a way to bring color and light into three dimensions. The white, pink, and yellow tubes take up an eight-square-foot corner area—a space not typically used to display art. Flavin did not consider his light works to be sculptures, instead calling them “situations” arising from the relationship between the physical object (the fluorescent tubing) and its illuminated surroundings. “One might not think of light as a matter of fact, but I do,” he stated. “And it is . . . as plain and open and direct an art as you will ever find.”
Gallery label from "Collection: 1940s—1970s", 2019
Flavin began working with commercially available fluorescent light tubes in 1963. He exhibited them singly or in combination, innovating a complicated and varied range of visual effects using minimal means. Untitled (to the “innovator” of Wheeling Peachblow) derives its palette from Wheeling Peachblow, a type of Victorian art glass first made in Wheeling, West Virginia, that shades from yellow to deep red, producing a delicate peach color in between. Flavin created a similar color by placing one yellow and one pink fluorescent tube on each of the two vertical elements of a square metal armature. Two horizontal daylight tubes, facing the viewer, complete the structure.
Rather than hanging the work flush against the wall, Flavin positioned it on the floor across the corner of a gallery, where the square frames a monochrome plane of colored light and simultaneously defines an opening onto a three-dimensional space. In this way, untitled (to the “innovator” of Wheeling Peachblow) creates a visual effect that invokes the conditions of both painting’s flatness and sculpture’s depth without employing materials traditionally associated with either discipline.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)