Dan Flavin's "monuments" for V. Tatlin, executed between 1964 and 1990, form the most sustained series of works by the artist. These works, of which there exist a total of approximately 50 different simple configurations of primarily cool white fluorescent light, were dedicated by Flavin to the Russian Constructivist Vladimir Tatlin. Like other artists in the 1960s, Flavin appreciated the Russian Constructivists for their desire to express revolutionary social and political attitudes in a language of pure abstraction, which, particularly in Tatlin's case, emphasized the use of real materials (tin, wood, iron, glass, plaster) in three-dimensional space.
On the "monuments," Flavin has remarked:
Thus far, I have made a considered attempt to poise silent electric light in crucial concert point to point, line by line and otherwise in the box that is a room. This dramatic decoration has been founded in the young tradition of a plastic revolution which gripped Russian art only forty years ago. My joy is to try to build from that "incomplete" experience as I see fit.
The earliest works in this series were conceived between 1964 and 1968, shortly after Flavin created his diagonal of May 25, 1963, the first work in which the artist exclusively employed fluorescent lamps and fixtures. During this early period, Flavin was to discover the variability of this new medium, working with fluorescent lamps of differing commercially-available colors and sizes and playing with different possible configurations. In their investigation of variations of a simple set of fixed sculptural elements, the "monuments" comprise a quintessential example of the ideas of Minimal and Conceptual art. In this series, Flavin designed numerous related variations of white fluorescent lights made up of differing combinations of eight, six, four and two foot tubes (the standard commercially-available lengths). The "monuments" thus embody what the artist himself has described as his goal of working on "a sequence of implicit decisions to combine traditions of painting and sculpture in architecture with acts of electric light defining space."
According to the Dan Flavin catalogue raisonné, "This work is dated 1964 on all three of the certificates but was dated 1967 in the 1989 MoCA catalogue. A list with drawings, prepared by the artist to assist in the selection of works for the 1984 MoCA Temporary Contemporary exhibition, indicates that the 1967 date (used here) derives from a drawing from that year. (See MoCA 1989 catalogue, fig. 36)."