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Dan Flavin: A Retrospective

About the Exhibition

One of the most innovative artists of the late 20th century, Flavin (1933–1996) is best known for his works that consist almost entirely of fluorescent tubes in ten colors and five shapes. Large presentations of his art have rarely been seen due to the site-specific nature of many of his works. This exhibition is the first comprehensive retrospective devoted to his achievement as a major proponent of minimalism. The exhibition includes approximately 45 light works beginning with a series called “icons,” made from 1961 to 1963, which are constructed boxes with attached incandescent or fluorescent lights that show the influence of artists such as Barnett Newman and Marcel Duchamp.

Organized chronologically, the exhibition includes the “monuments” to Vladmir Tatlin, works made for corners that integrate light with architecture, large-scale installations, and “barrier” pieces—works made in homage to fellow artists or as reflections of Flavin's thinking on political subjects. The exhibition also features a selection of works on paper that reveal Flavin's thought processes and working methods. Unique to the MCA's presentation is a re-creation of the 1967–68 exhibition of Flavin's work alternating pink and “gold” at the MCA, one of the earliest and most important installations of his work.

Curated by Michael Govan, Dia Art Foundation director and president, and Tiffany Bell, director of the Dan Flavin catalogue raisonné, the presentation at the MCA is coordinated by James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs Elizabeth Smith.


The national tour is sponsored by Altria Group, Inc. Research for the exhibition and publication was supported by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Mellon Foundation. Additional funding has been provided by Lannan Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts. Major support for the Chicago presentation is provided by Donna and Howard Stone. Additional support for the Chicago presentation is provided by Andrea and James A. Gordon; Neil G. Bluhm; Altria Group, Inc.; the Neisser Family; and Lannan Foundation. Air transportation is provided by American Airlines, the official airline of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Hotel accommodation provided by the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel, a part of Millennium Hotels and Resorts.