16 August – 15 November 2014
Free to all
Works by the American minimalist artist, who was famous for creating sculptural installations from commercially available fluorescent light fixtures.
New York born Flavin was educated at Catholic schools and originally studied to become a priest at the Immaculate Conception Preparatory Seminary in Brooklyn between 1947 and 1952. Leaving to join his twin brother in the United States Air Force, he completed military service in the mid 1950s where he was trained as an air weather meteorological technician and studied art through the adult extension program of the University of Maryland in Korea.
Returning home in 1956, Flavin enrolled at the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts. His first works were drawings and paintings largely influenced by Abstract Expressionism, before he moved onto mixed media collage, created from found street objects such as crushed cans.
Working as a guard at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in 1961, Flavin started to make sketches for sculptures that incorporated electric lights. It resulted in his Icons series, which featured eight coloured boxlike constructions made from various materials including wood, Formica, or Masonite. One of these was dedicated to his twin brother David, who died of polio in 1962. This became a them in the artist's work and his later pieces are also named after other artists and friends who inspired him.
In the years that followed, Flavin made a conscious decided to restrict his materials to commercially available fluorescent tubes and dedicated himself to working in series and to serial arrangements. He became recognised as one of they key proponents of Minimalism and went onto create site specific installations for museums and galleries across the world, including he Guggenheim in New York and the Hayward Gallery in London.
Interestingly, Flavin would wait for one of his installations to be sold before he actually made it so as to avoid unnecessary production and storage costs. As a result, when the artist died he left behind designs and drawings for more than 1,000 unrealised sculptures.
Alongside the ARTIST ROOMS work, Gracefield is also exhibiting other minimalist from the Tate and the National Gallery of Scotland collections which reflect the key aspects of Flavin’s practice.