Puerto Rican Light (to Jeanie Blake) 2, 1965
Best known for his iconic works made of industrial fluorescent lights, Dan Flavin (b. 1933, Jamaica, New York; d. 1996, Riverhead, New York) is a central figure of American Minimalism. Coming from a background in painting, Flavin began incorporating electric lights into his work in the early 1960s, exploring the sculptural and painterly qualities of light and color and their relationship to built space. Flavin’s 1963 exhibition at Green Gallery, New York, was his first consisting entirely of fluorescent light works, marking a turning point in his career and the development of his signature Minimalist language. Eventually Flavin’s works with fluorescent lights would evolve into large-scale immersive installations such as untitled (to you, Heiner, with admiration and affection) (1973) at Dia: Beacon, Beacon, New York, and Untitled (1996) at the church of Santa Maria Annunciata in Chiesa Rossa, Milan, in his late career.
Puerto Rican light (to Jeanie Blake) 2 is one of Flavin’s early fluorescent tube light sculptures. Comprising three vertical fluorescent light tubes—red, pink, and yellow—the work tints the surrounding space into multicolored hues. Citing its “bright, festive colors” Jeanie Blake, an employee of Green Gallery where the work was first exhibited, remarked that it reminded her of “Puerto Rican lights” and the colors she had seen at the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York. Flavin often added to his titles parenthetical dedications to friends, family members, artist colleagues, or historical figures (often painters), inserting social and art historical references into otherwise Minimal works.
A major traveling retrospective devoted to Flavin’s work was organized by the Dia Art Foundation in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, in 2004. Other solo exhibitions have been presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1967); Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam (1975); Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (1986); Menil Collection, Houston (2003); and Museum Moderner Kunst (MUMOK), Vienna (2013). Long-term and site-specific installations are located at the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas; Dia: Beacon; Hamburger Bahnhof–Museum für Gegenwart, Nationalgalerie Berlin; Menil Collection; and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, among others. Flavin’s work has been included in key group exhibitions, including Primary Structures, the Jewish Museum, New York (1966); Minimal Art, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague (1968); and documenta 4 and 6, Kassel, Germany (1968 and 1977). His work can be found in significant international museum collections worldwide.