Edition of 5
"monument" for V. Tatlin
"monument" for V. Tatlin, 1964
cool white fluorescent light
8 ft. (244 cm) high
Edition of 5
From 1963, when he conceived the diagonal of May 25, 1963 (to Constantin Brancusi), a single gold, fluorescent lamp installed diagonally on a wall, until his death in 1996, Dan Flavin produced a singularly consistent and prodigious body of work that utilized commercially available fluorescent lamps to create installations (or "situations," as he preferred to call them) of light and color. Through these light constructions, Flavin was able to establish and redefine space.
Flavin's "monuments" for V. Tatlin, executed between 1964 and 1990, form the most sustained series of works by the artist. These works, of which there exist a total of 50 different simple configurations of primarily cool white fluorescent light, were dedicated by Flavin to the Russian Constructivist Vladimir Tatlin. Like other artists in the 1960s, Flavin appreciated the Russian Constructivists for their quest to express revolutionary social and political attitudes in a language of pure abstraction, which, particularly in Tatlin's case, emphasized the use of real materials (tin, wood, iron, glass, plaster) in three-dimensional space.
On the "monuments," Flavin has remarked: "My concern for the thought of Russian artist-designer, Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1953), was prompted by the man's frustrated, insistent attitude to attempt to combine artistry and engineering. The pseudo-monuments, structural designs for clear but temporary cool white fluorescent lighting, were to honor the artist ironically." 1
The earliest works in this series were conceived between 1964 and 1968, shortly after Flavin created his diagonal of May 25, 1963, the first work in which the artist exclusively employed fluorescent lamps and fixtures. During this early period, Flavin was to discover the variability of this new medium, working with fluorescent lamps of differing commercially available colors and sizes and playing with different possible configurations.
In their investigation of variations of a simple set of fixed sculptural elements, the "monuments" comprise a quintessential example of the ideas of minimal and conceptual art. In this series, Flavin designed numerous related variations of white fluorescent lights, made up of combinations of eight-, six-, four-, and two-foot tubes. The "monuments" thus embody what the artist himself has described as his goal of working on "a sequence of implicit decisions to combine traditions of painting and sculpture in architecture with acts of electric light defining space." 2
Another edition of the present work is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
1 Dan Flavin, "Some artist's remark…," in Monuments for V. Tatlin from Dan Flavin, 1964-1982. Exh. cat. (Chicago: Donald Young Gallery, for Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in collaboration with Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, 1989), n.p.; reprinted in Michael Govan and Tiffany Bell, Dan Flavin: The Complete Lights 1961-1966. Exh. cat. (New York: Dia Art Foundation, in association with Yale University Press, 2004), p. 112.
2 Dan Flavin, "'…in daylight or cool white.' an autobiographical sketch," first published in Artforum 4, no. 4 (December 1965), pp. 20-24; reprinted in ibid., p. 192