Friday June 8, 2012 | by laguiri

SEEN: Dan Flavin retrospective shows development of fluorescent light installations

FILED UNDER: Exhibition, Seen

Dan Flavin, untitled (in honor of Harold Joachim) 3, 1977. Pink, yellow, blue, and green fluorescent light. 8 ft square across a corner. Collection of Stephen Flavin © 2012 Stephen Flavin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photography: Graham S. Haber, 2012

A soft glow emanates from the Clare Eddy Thaw Gallery on the ground floor of The Morgan Library & Museum. Inside the spare white room, an eight foot square grid of pink, yellow, green and blue fluorescent lights bathes you in warm light. Dan Flavin’s untitled (in honor of Harold Joachim) 3 takes over the entire room, setting the tone for Dan Flavin: Drawing, the retrospective upstairs.

As an introduction to a retrospective of an artist best known for his fluorescent light installations, the more than 100 drawings in the exhibition come as a bit of surprise. Evident in the exhibition title itself, Dan Flavin: Drawing emphasizes not the individual artworks themselves, but the importance of the act of drawing throughout Flavin’s career. Despite this focus, the two light installations, untitled (in honor of Harold Joachim) 3, and untitled (to the real Dan Hill) 1a, frame the show. Walk into the upstairs gallery and light emanates from untitled (to the real Dan Hill), tucked away to the right of the door. Again, the visitor is bathed in pink, yellow, green, and blue light before they can approach more than 100 drawings by Flavin that include plans for light sculptures; watercolors; notebook sketches of strangers; and maritime-themed pastels. Also included in the exhibition, which closes July 1, 2012, are some 50 works from Flavin’s personal art collection.

Dan Flavin, in honor of Harold Joachim in pink, yellow, blue and green fluorescent light 8’ high and wide, 1984. Pen and ink and colored pencil on graph paper. H 17, W 21 7/8 in. Drawing done by Helene Geary. Collection of Stephen Flavin © 2012 Stephen Flavin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Graham S. Haber, 2011

A meticulous record keeper of his own work, Flavin created numerous drawings while brainstorming and planning his fluorescent light installations, including the icons he realized between 1961 and 1963, his first sustained series of light sculptures. His drawings, which detail plans for painted wooden squares with one or more lamps attached, reveal ideas for many more than the eight icons he created and mark the beginning of a lifelong process of drawing to plan for his light sculptures. He began with quick sketches in small notebooks he carried with him at all times and sometimes created larger studies and finished drawings, some of which were done on colored paper to reflect how the lights would interact in the installation. Starting in 1971, he also gave others explicit instructions for “final finished diagrams” in colored pencil on graph paper of his installations.

Dan Flavin, proposals for (in memory of “Sandy” Calder), 1977. Graphite pencil and colored pencil on graph paper. H 17, W 21 7/8 in. Collection of Stephen Flavin. © 2012 Stephen Flavin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Graham S. Haber, 2011

“The world knows Dan Flavin through the iconic fluorescent light installations on which his reputation rests,” said William M. Griswold, director of The Morgan Library & Museum, in a prepared statement. “But few people are aware that these magnificent pieces often began as sketches, schematic drawings, and diagrams on graph paper. Throughout his career, Flavin returned to drawing to explore new ideas and new themes, and collected drawings by old and modern masters to serve as sources of inspiration.”

— Grace Duggan


“Dan Flavin: Drawing”
Through July 1, 2012
The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street
New York, NY 10016
Tel: 212 685 0008

Glass: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for more than 40 years.