Dan Flavin: A Retrospective, the first comprehensive exhibition of Flavin's career, presents approximately 50 objects and installations, most of which use the medium of fluorescent light, along with drawings, sketches, and collage-constructions. Michael Auping, chief curator of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, notes, "Dan Flavin's light installations may be the closest thing we have to a contemporary sublime. The apparent simplicity of these industrial, fluorescent light fixtures belies their ability to swallow us in ethereal fields of color." Auping adds, "Seeing Flavin's flowing luminosity traveling through Ando's generous corridors is something I've been looking forward to for a number of years."
Dan Flavin: A Retrospective showcases the chronological development of Flavin's work over the course of 35 years, demonstrating the various means through which he experimented with light, color, and interior space. It includes the full range of his work, from the early "icons" to installations that occupy an entire room. Many of these are specifically dedicated by Flavin to modernist predecessors and contemporary artists he admired, such as Constantin Brancusi, Piet Mondrian, Henri Matisse, and Alexander Calder. Other dedications reveal Flavin’s commitment to the politics of his time and his attempt to reinvent the genre of the commemorative monument.
The exhibition begins with a group of "icons," produced between 1961 and 1963, a series of box-like constructions with attached incandescent and fluorescent lights. Many of these works signify Flavin's invention of an object that is neither painting nor sculpture, yet incorporates elements of both.
The next section of the exhibition represents Flavin's move from the "icon" construction into works composed solely of fluorescent light. Standardized tubes that were available from hardware stores in prefabricated lengths and colors were used by the artist in an unaltered state, beginning with the diagonal of May 25, 1963 (to Constantin Brancusi), 1963.
A group of Flavin's well-known "monuments' for V. Tatlin, 1964–1981, comprise the chief example of the principle of seriality and permutation in his work. The range of Flavin's content is represented by pieces that include political subjects, such as untitled (to a man, George McGovern) 1, 1972. In other works, Flavin pays respectful, slightly humorous homage to fellow artists such as Robert Ryman, in an installation using warm and daylight white lamps, and Ad Reinhardt, in a work consisting only of ultraviolet (or "black") light.
One of Flavin's signature "barrier" works, untitled (to you, Heiner, with admiration and affection), 1973, a 120 foot–long installation in green fluorescent light, will be on view in the central pavilion gallery on the ground floor, where the light from the installation will be reflected in the Modern's pond.
The exhibition also includes a selection of works on paper (portraits, landscapes, and collages, as well as plans and diagrams), which reveal both practical and conceptual aspects of Flavin's working process.