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Dan Flavin

Daniel Nicholas Flavin Jr.

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Dan Flavin was an American minimalist artist famous for creating sculptural objects and installations from commercially available fluorescent light fixtures.

In 1956, Flavin briefly attended the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts and studied 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.

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Dan Flavin (April 1, 1933 – November 29, 1996) was an American minimalist artist famous for creating sculptural objects and installations from commercially available fluorescent light fixtures.

Daniel Nicholas Flavin Jr. was born in Jamaica, New York, of Irish Catholic descent, and was sent to Catholic schools. He studied for the priesthood at the Immaculate Conception Preparatory Seminary in Brooklyn between 1947 and 1952 before leaving to join his fraternal twin brother, David John Flavin, and enlist in the United States Air Force. During military service in 1954–55, Flavin was trained as an air weather meteorological technician and studied art through the adult extension program of the University of Maryland in Korea. Upon his return to New York in 1956, Flavin briefly attended the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts and studied 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's twin brother, David, died in 1962.

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. A memorial for him was held at the Dia Center for the Arts, on January 23, 1997. Speakers included Brydon Smith, curator of 20th-century art at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Fariha Friedrich, a Dia trustee, and Michael Venezia, an artist.

The artist's estate is represented by David Zwirner, New York.

Flavin’s first works were drawings and paintings that reflected the influence of Abstract Expressionism. In 1959, he began to make assemblages and mixed media collages that included found objects from the streets, especially crushed cans.

In the summer of 1961, while working as a guard at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Flavin started to make sketches for sculptures that incorporated electric lights. The first works to incorporate electric light were his "Icons" series: eight colored shallow, boxlike square constructions made from various materials such as wood, Formica, or Masonite. Constructed by the artist and his then-wife Sonja, the Icons had fluorescent tubes with incandescent and fluorescent bulbs attached to their sides, and sometimes beveled edges. One of these icons was dedicated to Flavin's twin brother David, who died of polio in 1962.

The "Diagonal of Personal Ecstasy (the Diagonal of May 25, 1963)," a yellow fluorescent placed on a wall at a 45-degree angle from the floor and completed in 1963, was Flavin's first mature work; it is dedicated to Constantin Brâncuși and marks the beginning of Flavin's exclusive use of commercially available fluorescent light as a medium. A little later, The Nominal Three (to William of Ockham) (1963) consists of six vertical fluorescent tubes on a wall, one to the left, two in the center, three on the right, all emitting white light. He confined himself to a limited palette (red, blue, green, pink, yellow, ultraviolet, and four different whites) and form (straight two-, four-, six-, and eight-foot tubes, and, beginning in 1972, circles). In the decades that followed, he continued to use fluorescent structures to explore color, light and sculptural space, in works that filled gallery interiors. He started to reject studio production in favor of site-specific “situations” or “proposals” (as the artist preferred to classify his work). These structures cast both light and an eerily colored shade, while taking a variety of forms, including "corner pieces", "barriers," and "corridors." Most of Flavin's works were untitled, followed by a dedication in parenthesis to friends, artists, critics and others: the most famous of these include his "Monuments to V. Tatlin," an homage to the Russian constructivist sculptor Vladimir Tatlin, a series of a total of fifty pyramidal wall pieces which he continued to work on between 1964 and 1990.

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Dan Flavin Artworks
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