Dan Flavin (April 1, 1933, Jamaica, New York – November 29, 1996, Riverhead, New York) was an American minimalist artist famous for creating sculptural objects and installations from commercially-available fluorescent light fixtures.
Flavin studied art history for a short time at the New School for Social Research, then moved on to Columbia University, where he studied painting and drawing. Flavin first conceived of using electric light as an art form in 1961, the same year he married his first wife Sonja Severdija His first solo show was also held in 1961, at New York's Judson Gallery.
The first works to incorporate electric light were his "icons" series: eight colored square box-forms, constructed by the artist and his then-wife Sonja: these were fluorescent tubes with incandescent bulbs attached to their sides, and sometimes beveled edges. One of these icons was dedicated to Flavin's twin brother David, who died of polio in 1962."
The "Diagonal of Personal Ecstasy (the Diagonal of May 25, 1963)," completed in 1963, was Flavin's first mature work; it marks the beginning of the artist's exclusive use of fluorescent light as a medium. In the decades that followed, he continued to use fluorescent structures to explore color, light and sculptural space, in works that filled gallery interiors. These structures cast both light and an eerily-colored shade, while taking a variety of forms, including "corner pieces", "barriers," and "corridors." Most of Flavin's works were untitled, followed by a dedication in parenthesis to friends, artists, critics and others: the most famous of these include his "Monuments to V. Tatlin," an homage to the Russian constructivist sculptor Vladimir Tatlin, which he continued to work on between 1964 and 1990.
Flavin married his second wife, the artist Tracy Harris, in a ceremony at the Guggenheim Museum, in 1992. Dan Flavin's last artwork was a site-specific work at S. Maria Annunciata in Chiesa Rossa, Milan, Italy. The 1930s church was designed by Giovanni Muzio. The design for the piece was completed two days before Flavin's death on November 29, 1996. Its installation was completed one year later with the assistance of the Dia Center for the Arts and Fondazione Prada.
Flavin died in Riverhead, New York.