Dan Flavin installation @ Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas (Morfa)
(from Art in America .. more info on sources below)
Chinati Foundation, Marfa
The Marfa plans had a long gestation. The initial contract for the work to fulfill Judd's conception of a museum of permanently installed work by him, Flavin and John Chamberlain was issued by the Dia Art Foundation in 1979. Flavin traveled to Marfa in the early 1980s, and models of the buildings and meeting notes suggest that he conceived his plans around that time. Nonetheless, he did not disclose his ideas completely until March 1996.
The six buildings are U-shaped structures that have been renovated in the local vernacular architectural style with adobe walls and metal roofs. To accommodate Flavin's installation, all the windows except two at the end of each long wall have been closed over; entrances are on the inside of the U toward the ends of the long sides. Inside, two parallel corridors have been constructed at the bottom of the U, with walls--86 feet on the outside and 44 feet on the shorter courtyard side--that lean left, making a 76-degree angle with the floor.
Passage through the leaning corridors is blocked by eight back-to-back pairs of 8-foot-long fluorescent fixtures that extend from floor to ceiling, parallel to the walls. Gaps the width of the lamps are left between each pair of fixtures, allowing one to see through the color cast by the lamps on the fronts to the different color at the backs.
In three of the buildings, these light barriers are placed at the centers of the corridors' lengths, so that color is largely contained within the leaning walls. In the other three (they alternate from one building to the next), the lights are placed on both ends of the corridors, which allows color to flood into the long arms of the building as well as the inaccessible interiors of the corridors. The first two buildings contain pink and green lamps; in the second two, yellow and blue lamps are similarly placed; and the last two have both a pink/green and a yellow/blue corridor.
The repetition of arrangement and color in the Marfa corridors is characteristic of much of Flavin's art. As in the work of other Minimalists, such as Judd, Carl Andre or Sol LeWitt, an inherent systematic order distinguishes his art from the expressionism of the previous generation and takes on relevance with regard to many issues of the early '60s: handmaking versus industrial production, the nature of individuality, the importance of part to whole, and so on. For Flavin, the projection of a system was particularly important because it provided a kind of framework to work with and against. The repetition and regularity of his elements and his arrangements provided a structure within which he employed a strategy of systematic change.
Although Marfa's tilting corridors were a striking new development for Flavin, the use of diagonals and other aspects of the piece derive from earlier works. Flavin's first solely fluorescent piece to be exhibited employed a diagonal element: the diagonal of May 25, 1963 (to Robert Rosenblum) was a single 8-foot fixture with a cool-white lamp placed on the wall at a 45-degree angle. The spacing of the parallel lamps at Marfa relates to untitled (to Dorothy and Roy Lichtenstein on not seeing anyone in the room), 1968, a work in which a rank of single cool-white lamps is set vertically into a doorway. In that work, the lamps face away from the viewer, illuminating an empty room while blocking passage into it, like the Marfa works that are barricaded at each end. In both cases, the architecture and lights operate in tension with each other. The walls invite passage but the lamps prevent it; the lights shine forth brilliantly only to be contained and framed by the walls. The Marfa works, however, are neither as blunt nor as austere as the 1968 work, with its cool, colorless light. Also in contrast, the exposed backs of the fixtures in the earlier piece suggest prison bars and give a vaguely political character to the work. At Marfa, the double-sided arrangement and the intensity of the paired, contrasting colors fill and complicate both the existing and constructed space. The physical experience of the work becomes dynamic and visually disorienting.
The Marfa installations in which lamps are midway down the passage recall an earlier corridor, untitled (to Barry, Mike, Chuck and Leonard), 1972-75, a hall 8 feet tall and wide, of a length dependent on the available space, with back-to-back pink and yellow lamps placed floor to ceiling midway down its length. As in Marfa, to see the work completely, the observer is forced to walk around the construction (in Marfa, this means going outside and crossing the courtyard to reenter the building). This experience introduces some surprises, as the color and intensity of the lights change from side to side. The construction of the earlier work set up a square frame that tends to play with notions of perspective; one's gaze travels down the visually converging lines of the walls, much as in Renaissance perspectival painting, to meet a plane of light fixtures. In the Marfa works, the angled walls and fixtures disrupt the expected order of right angles, subverting the sense of architectural proportion and balance. In this regard, they recall a corridor conceived and built around the time Flavin was first thinking about the Marfa works, untitled (to my dear bitch, Airily), 1981, in which diagonally placed blue lamps ran along the walls and ceiling of an 8-foot-high and -wide corridor. The familiar structure encouraged one to pass through; while the lights did not block the passage, their placement warped one's sense of rectilinear order.
The dynamic quality of the installation in Marfa is amplified by color. Though he utilized a limited range of commercially available hues, Flavin combined colored lights to very different effects, both expressive and spatial. In Marfa, he paired bright, contrasting colors: pink/green and blue/yellow. Green is the most luminous and intense of the fluorescent colors; when pink and green are mixed they seem to radiate yellow. As one looks into the corridor toward the green lamps, the color turns white as the eye compensates for the intensity of the green light. This physiological effect strengthens the pink light as seen from the green side. When one walks around to look at this light barrier from the other side, the yellow reflection on the barrack walls is seen to be the result of emanations of soft pink highlighted by green. These subtle transformations play against the predictability of the repeated structures.
Dan Flavin, Posthumously
Art in America, Oct, 2000 by Tiffany Bell
Dan Flavin was born on April 1, 1933 in New York City. In the mid 1950s he served in the US Air Force as an air weather meteorological technician in Korea, after which he returned to New York and attended art history classes at the New School for Social Research and Columbia University. While he had an interest in art and drawing throughout his life, he never received formal art instruction.
In 1961 Flavin had his first solo exhibition at the Judson Gallery, New York City. Later that year he began experimenting with electric light in a series of works called 'icons,' which led him to his inaugural work in pure fluorescent light, the diagonal of May 25, 1963. Flavin married Sonja Severdija in 1961, and their son, Stephen Conor, was born in 1964. In 1965 Flavin moved from Manhattan to the shores of the Hudson River where he continued his drawings of water and landscape and developed his interest in nineteenth-century Hudson River landscape painters.
With a recommendation from Marcel Duchamp, Flavin received an award from the William & Norma Copley Foundation, Chicago, in 1964, the same year that he exhibited his 'icons' at the Kaymar Gallery and had his first exhibition in fluorescent light at the Green Gallery, both in New York City. He also began his nearly life-long series of monuments dedicated to the Russian Constructivist Vladimir Tatlin. Flavin became known as an originator of 'Minimal' art through inclusion in key group exhibitions such as "Black, White, and Gray" at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut in 1964 and "Primary Structures" at the Jewish Museum in New York City in 1966.
Flavin's recognition began to spread to Europe in 1966 following his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, Cologne, and his first 'barrier' installation greens crossing greens (to Piet Mondrian who lacked green), created for the exhibition "Kunst Licht Kunst" at the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven. He was featured in the "Minimal Art" exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, in 1968.
Flavin's first single large-scale installation, alternating pink and 'gold', was made for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in 1967. In 1969 his retrospective exhibition "fluorescent light, etc. from Dan Flavin," opened at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, before traveling to the Vancouver Art Gallery, British Columbia, and to the Jewish Museum in New York City.
Circular fluorescent lights entered Flavin's artistic vocabulary in 1972 in an installation at the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York, and were a key element of an important exhibition at the St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri in 1973.
From its inception in 1974, the Dia Art Foundation acquired numerous works by Flavin, and supported larger projects including: an outdoor work for the four corners of the courtyard of the Kunstmuseum Basel, in 1975; lighting several train platforms at New York's Grand Central Station in 1977; and a permanent installation of nine works in a former firehouse and Baptist Church in Bridgehampton, New York (The Dan Flavin Art Institute) in 1983.
Among Flavin's most important late large-scale installation was his project to light the entire rotunda of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City to commemorate its restoration and reopening in 1992 (based on a smaller installation he had made there for the 1971 "Sixth Guggenheim International"). Flavin married Tracy Harris, at the Guggenheim, in 1992. He completed a major installation for the Kunstbau Lenbachaus, Munich, in 1974.
Flavin died in Riverhead, New York, on November 29, 1996, near his Long Island, New York home.
Three of Flavin's most ambitious permanent installations were completed after his death: the lighting of Santa Maria Annunciata in Chiesa Rossa, a 1920s designed Catholic Church in Milan, in 1997; a project for Richmond Hall at the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas in 1998; and the completion of an installation in six former army barracks at Donald Judd's Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas in 2000.