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Details
Dan Flavin (1933-1996)
untitled
red and green fluorescent light
72 in. (182.9 cm.)
Executed in 1968. This work is number 2B from a series of three and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.
Provenance
Curt Marcus Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Literature
M. Govan and T. Bell, Dan Flavin: The Complete Lights 1961-1996, New Haven, 2005, p. 275, no. 186 (diagram illustrated).
Exhibited
Munich, Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Dan Flavin, May-July 1968 (another example exhibited).
Cologne, Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Dan Flavin, March-April 1971 (another example exhibited).
Krefeld, Museum Haus Lange and Haus Esters, Bücher Bilder Objekte aus der Sammlung Rainer Speck, May-July 1983, p. 167 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Stadtmuseum Graz, Malerei-Wandmalerei, September-October 1987, p. 75 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Sammlung Speck, September-November 1996, p. 249 (another example exhibited and illustrated).

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Alex Berggruen
Alex Berggruen

Lot Essay

Dan Flavin has long been recognized for his pioneering use of light and color divorced from traditional artistic contexts. Employing only commercial fluorescent lights, Flavin devised a radical new art form that circumvented the limits imposed by frames, pedestals, and other conventional means of display. The reductive and methodical character of his extraordinary work references the relationship to specific architectural contexts. His embrace of the fluorescent light as an aesthetic object placed him at the forefront of a generation of artists whose use of industrial materials and elementary forms became conspicuous characteristics of Minimal Art.
Speaking about his work, Flavin said, “In time, I came to these conclusions about what I had found in fluorescent light, and about what might be done with it plastically: Now the entire interior spatial container and its parts—wall, floor and ceiling, could support this strip of light but would not restrict its act of light except to enfold it. Regard the light but would not restrict its act of light except to enfold it. Regard the light and you are fascinated—inhibited from grasping its limits at each end. While the tube itself has an actual length of eight feet, its shadow, cast by the supporting pan, has none but an illusion dissolving at its ends. This waning shadow cannot really be measured without resisting its visual effect and breaking the poetry” (D. Flavin, quoted in J. Fiona Ragheb, Dan Flavin: The Architecture of Light, exh. Cat. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1999, p.58)
Though Flavin’s lights represent the transformation of painting and sculpture into a third medium that both transgresses and transcends the first two, they remain conceptually grounded in the advances of the previous generation. Though he took great lengths to carefully preserve, document, and construct permanent settings for his art, he had an equally keen sense of its ephemeral nature. Flavin’s work is on the forefront of what he referred to as “situational art.” In an interview with Tiffany Bell, he states, “one has no choice but to accept the fact of temporary art. Permanence just defies everything. There’s no such thing. I have no hope for that” (M. Govan and T. Bell, Dan Flavin: A Retrospective, New York, 2004, p.14). Untitled allows for an intimate connection with the viewer as the striking pairing of complimentary colors red and green is not only visually arresting but also inherently sophisticated as well. The brilliant warm glow emanates off the wall and commands the room, filling the space with Flavin’s iconic fluorescent light.
Executed in 1968, this work is product of a pivotal moment in Flavin’s career as this was the year in which Flavin objectively mastered the process of working with his signature fluorescent tubes. It was also the year when he decided his collection of small-scale work was completed, and in 1970 he moved almost entirely to working with large scale installations. His work has been the subject of many major museum retrospectives, including those organized by the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa (1969), St. Louis Art Museum (1973), Kunsthalle Basel (1975), and Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (1989). In 1992, Flavin filled the entire Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York with multicolored light, taking full advantage of the open spatial layout of the Frank Lloyd Wright design and in 1996, he introduced electric green and blue lights into the staircases of the warehouse then occupied by the Dia Art Foundation.
Few artists can boast having explored a single medium as tenaciously and consistently as Dan Flavin. He is wholly minimalist in his anti-gesturalism, but his ability to similarly de- and then re-signify the tube is in comparison unfailing: the tube is just like the ones installed in office buildings worldwide, yet in Flavin’s hands it continues to produce strong associations and emotions which go way beyond the mere supply of light.
Flavin saw an opportunity to sculpt with light itself, and in his work he offered a new kind of installation that used forms that are entirely evanescent but strikingly vivid. Critic Roberta Smith said of the artist’s work, “The material Mr. Flavin fastened on, the fluorescent light fixture in its many colors and lengths, was at once sensuous and austere, straightforward and celebratory. He was perhaps the first artist to employ electric light in a sustained way, and he remained one of the best…This beauty emanated from a combination of the tubes' intense lines of color, the softer glow of their diffuse, spreading light and the geometric arrangements of the tubes' metal pans. Mr. Flavin became adept at getting the most out of all three” (R. Smith, “Dan Flavin, 63, Sculptor Of Fluorescent Light, Dies,” New York Times, December 4, 1996).

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