New York, NY – Dia Art Foundation will present Dan Flavin: icons at the Dan Flavin Art Institute in Bridgehampton, New York, from April 30, 2015, to April 30, 2017. Bridging the mediums of painting and sculpture, the selection of icons created between 1961 and 1964 connects the work that Flavin made early in his career to the sculptures in light for which he is remembered. Dia previously presented works from this series at Dia Center for the Arts at 548 West 22nd Street from 1997 to 1998 and at the Dan Flavin Art Institute from 1999 to 2003.
“The icons are Flavin’s earliest experiment with artificial light. This series is significant because it demonstrates the leap that Flavin made from painting to working in pure light,” commented Jessica Morgan, Director, Dia Art Foundation. “We are delighted for this critical early series in his oeuvre to return to the Dan Flavin Art Institute.”
Dia will present five of the eight icons from the series. Each wall-mounted work occupies a square box-like construction with a painted surface and attached light fixtures. Given the artist’s Catholic upbringing and education, the use of the word “icon” seems to be a specific, and pointed, choice. Unlike traditional religious icons, Flavin created entirely nonrepresentational artworks and dedicated them to the memory of friends, family, and cultural figures that he admired. These dedications, a process that he continued with his works in light, lend elements of humor, irony, and tragedy to the otherwise austerely untitled sculptures. For example, Flavin dedicated icon I (the heart) (to the light of Sean McGovern which blesses everyone) and icon II (the mystery) (to John Reeves) to his friends and acquaintances in New York City.
On permanent view on the second floor of the Dan Flavin Art Institute is an installation in fluorescent light by the artist. Consisting of nine works from the years 1971–81, this installation was planned and completed in 1983 by Flavin.
In addition to maintaining the Dan Flavin Art Institute in Bridgehampton, Dia has supported Flavin’s work in other ways since 1974. Dia has commissioned site-specific installations in Marfa, Texas, and in New York City at Grand Central Station and at the former Dia Center for the Arts. Dia’s collection also includes approximately fifty works by the artist.
Flavin was born in 1933 in New York City, where he later studied art history at the New School for Social Research (1956) and Columbia University (1957–59). His first solo show was at the Judson Gallery, New York, in 1961. Flavin made his first work with electric light that same year and he began using commercial fluorescent bulbs in 1963. Major exhibitions of Flavin’s work include those at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1967), the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1969), and the Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden (1989). In 1983, Dia opened the Dan Flavin Art Institute. In 1992, Flavin created a monumental installation for the reopening of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. He died in 1996, leaving designs for a light installation for Milan’s Chiesa Rossa that was realized posthumously with Dia’s support. In 2004, Dia Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Art organized a major touring retrospective of Flavin’s work; venues included the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and Musée d’Art modern de la Ville de Paris.
Dia Art Foundation
Founded in 1974, Dia Art Foundation is committed to initiating, supporting, presenting, and preserving extraordinary art projects. Dia:Beacon opened in May 2003 in Beacon, New York. Dia also maintains several long-term sites including Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979), Max Neuhaus’s Times Square (1977), Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks, which was inaugurated at Documenta 7 in 1982), and Dan Flavin’s untitled (1996), all of which are located in New York City; the Dan Flavin Art Institute (established in 1983) in Bridgehampton, New York; De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977) in western New Mexico; Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) in Great Salt Lake, Utah; De Maria’s The Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977) in Kassel, Germany; and Flavin’s untitled (to you, Heiner, with admiration and affection) (1973) in Munich, Germany. Dia also commissions original Artist Web Projects and produces scholarly publications.
Dia currently presents temporary installations, performances, lectures, and readings on West 22nd Street in the Chelsea section of New York City, the neighborhood it helped pioneer. Plans for a new project space are underway.