Lighting Mechanics

Dan Flavin makes the comment in the Tiffany Bell interview, “…if I keep the fluorescent light media-mindedness, then that’s what’s really going on…  It’s such a restrictive medium, as I’ve said before, that I’ve developed an appreciation for it.  But then again, I may simply be lazy and conservative overall.”  His work is so specific to the fluorescent source.  He’s taking a very “everyday” lamp but using it with color or at specific diagonals to play with our perception and perspective in a space.

Optical response

Color is a huge part of Flavin’s work.  By juxtaposing pink and green or blue and yellow, he makes the opposite color appear more saturated.  There are also pieces that work to mix 4 colors into a white (like at the Menil Collection), and other pieces that very carefully separate them into discreet spaces so that they seem to create volumes of color (like the corridors in Marfa).


Flavin seems to have a nonchalant attitude towards himself as an artist (see quote above).  He works from his “history,” or as he calls it, his “residue.” (Tiffany Bell interview)  When Phyllis Tuchman presses about if he had anticipated certain effects happening in his installations (like how the yellow and green would mix at the John Weber Gallery or how the colors would change at the Guggenheim depending on if you were inside or outside the alcove), Flavin replies as if he hadn’t, as if so much of it is incidental.  I feel as if he operates on an intuitive level.   He wants to work with the ordinary light bulb, which lends a module and a system to his work. (“Posthumously” article)   He works well in this system, but he definitely doesn’t seem as precise and exacting as Robert Irwin in his execution or his attention to the evolution of his work or himself.

Emotional Response

The colors and angles in Flavin’s work can cause some of his spaces to be dreamlike.  I find the Marfa corridors especially overwhelming because they contain their color so well.  They make for a very saturated environment who’s angles greatly contribute to heightening your awareness of being in a special place.  This is not the case for all his work though – some of it is extremely “everyday” and is not trying to transport the viewer by any means.

Records and Representations

As he gets older, Flavin reports having less and less ambition to make drawings of his concepts.   He doesn’t compile iterations.  He says he is too “lazy” and “impatient.”  The drawings in the “Posthumously” article show how simple his line drawings are as representations: there is no attempt to really render light, only the basic form of the sources and space.

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