Dan Flavin & The Stedelijk Museum
Many Visual Arts and Art History students will recognize Dan Flavin’s works from Art History classes. Flavin, classified by art historians and theorists as a Minimalist artist, is one of the most significant artists of the late twentieth century. His innovative break from traditional mediums of painting and sculpture is groundbreaking and his installations involving fluorescent light fixtures have ultimately shaped the course of contemporary art and New Media practices. Moreover, a trend in “light art” is continuously seen in the works of many of today’s prominent artists (Olafur Eliasson, James Turrell, Bruce Nauman, Jenny Holzer, and Tracey Emin, to name a few), each of whom have built upon Flavin’s influence in various ways.
Flavin’s vast oeuvre consists primarily of site-specific “situations” that take on a variety of forms. Limiting his material to commercially available fluorescent tubing in industry standard sizes, Flavin’s resulting installations are both simple and thought provoking. As Flavin became more concerned with the relationship between his installations and the spaces they inhabit, he began limiting his colour palette. The result is an atmospheric, simplistic, and mediative body of work. In concerning the relationship with the space, Flavin’s works transform the space into an aspect of the installation, making us take note of various architectural elements presented by the light. Light becomes a poetic and haunting artistic medium.
While there have been a number of retrospectives of Flavin’s works in the United States (including one at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.), the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam has recently announced its purchase of one of Flavin’s more prominent installations, a site-specific piece originally made in 1986 for the museum’s historic building. Untitled (to Piet Mondrian through his preferred colours, red, yellow and blue) and Untitled (to Piet Mondrian who lacked green) are two parts of an amazing installation that now occupies the hallway above the Stedelijk Museum’s grand staircase.
In keeping with Flavin’s continuous influence on contemporary art, the installation will serve as a bridge connecting the museum’s collection of pre-WWII Modernist works with the works of Flavin’s late twentieth century peers. The installation in the grand staircase will be on view as part of the reopening of the Stedelijk Museum on September 23, 2012. If you are in the Amsterdam area at this time, this is one work that is not to be missed!
- Victoria Nolte