Skip to main content

New York Museum Exhibitions: Dan Flavin's Drawings at The Morgan

Several museum exhibitions have opened in New York City over the past couple of weeks, including blockbuster retrospectives of Cindy Sherman and John Chamberlain, but a smaller and more focused exhibit of the drawings of Dan Flavin at the Morgan Library & Museum yields the most surprises. While the big shows at MoMA and Guggenheim provide a great deal of interest, those galleries are filled with works we expect to see. Not so with the Flavin exhibit. While most will know the artist for his fluorescent sculpture, his works on paper expand our understanding. Drawings have a way of revealing the artist in an intimate way, as if we are looking over their shoulder while they look around and think about the world.

Dan Flavin (1933-1996)
blue trees in wind, 1957
Grease pencil on ledger paper
7 7/8 x 10 1/2 inches (20 x 26.7 cm)
Collection of Stephen Flavin
© 2012 Stephen Flavin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photography: Graham S. Haber, 2011


Organized by Isabelle Dervaux, Acquavella Curator, Modern and Contemporary Drawings, the Flavin exhibit presents phases of the artist's life as well as a selection from his own art collection. The earliest works reveal several important influences, all of them more or less at play throughout his life - meteorology, Willem de Kooning, Roman Catholicism, and the love of language. Trained as an Air Force meteorologist, Flavin possessed a keen talent in drawing the weather conditions. This can be seen in a 1957 drawing titled blue trees in wind (above) and in his series on the subject of sails in the 1980s. His watercolors and drawings of the late 1950s show an affinity for a de Kooning-style expressionism. In a series of seven drawings, Flavin matched broad gestural lines and watercolor washes with the text of James Joyce.

The catholicism of Flavin, who studied briefly to become a priest, may best be represented with the small "c," as his interests in art, history, and literature were varied and vast. He studied the works of Brancusi, Van Gogh, Titian, Vladimir Tatlin, and obvious when you think about it - Mondrian. He read James Joyce and Guillaume Apollinaire. He was concerned about social and political causes, represented in the exhibition by a 1961 watercolor titled to those who suffer in the Congo and by a 1972 notebook drawing dedicated to the presidential candidate George McGovern, among others.

But there is, too, the matter of that light.

Dan Flavin (1933-1996)
untitled (to the real Dan Hill) 1a, 1978
pink, yellow, green, and blue fluorescent light
8 ft. (244 cm) high, leaning
© 2012 Stephen Flavin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo by Billy Jim, New York
Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York

The Morgan exhibition documents Flavin's journey into that light, including the first tentative drawings for a series of icons, realized as painted wooden boxes with lamps attached. Some of the drawings are small notebook sketches while others are larger and more realized. From 1963 on, Flavin worked on his signature fluorescent light installations, using drawings to document and reflect his ideas. Beginning in the 1970s, the artist kept an inventory of documentations of his light installations, drawings on graph paper with colored pencil and executed by the artist's assistants.

Dan Flavin (1933-1996)
in honor of Harold Joachim in pink, yellow, blue and green fluorescent light 8’ high and wide, 1984
Pen and ink and colored pencil on graph paper
17 x 21 7/8 inches (43.2 x 55.6 cm) Drawing done by Helene Geary
Collection of Stephen Flavin
© 2012 Stephen Flavin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photography: Graham S. Haber, 2011


Surely, the big surprise of the Flavin exhibition rests with the landscapes. He sketched views of the Hudson River and the beaches of Long Island, sometimes documenting the weather conditions, using tools of graphite or pastel to draw in traditional sketchbooks. They are in the tradition of field or nature journals. His studies of sails show an economy of line that is nevertheless expressionistic and perhaps influenced by an appreciation for the brushstrokes of Hiroshige and Hokusai. The Morgan exhibition includes several Japanese drawings that Flavin collected, along with works of the Hudson River School and by Flavin contemporaries - Donald Judd, Robert Morris, and Sol LeWitt. These works from his own art collection help expand our understanding of his commitments, intellectual curiosity, and artistic practices.

Dan Flavin (1933-1996)
sails, 1986
Pastel
11 x 14 inches (35.6 x 28 cm)
Collection of Stephen Flavin
© 2012 Stephen Flavin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photography: Graham S. Haber, 2011

The exhibition includes two fluorescent light installations, certainly even more revealing in the context of the drawings. At the entrance of the exhibition is untitled (to the real Dan Hill) 1a, 1978, a vertical corner work with pink, yellow, green and blue light. The most stunning is the single eight-foot-square work occupying the museum's ground floor Thaw Gallery, untitled (in honor of Harold Joachim) 3, 1977. Here, the pink, yellow, green and blue lights are thrilling in their intersections, communicating something almost mystical to the viewer in the surrounding space. While Flavin distinguished his icons from the Byzantine version, arguing that his own "bring a limited light," a visit to the Thaw Gallery to see the glow of this Flavin masterpiece is akin to a religious experience.


Dan Flavin: Drawing
February 17—July 1, 2012
The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street, New York, NY 10016-3405
212.685.0008
www.themorgan.org

Images courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Museums in New York Open on Mondays

Please see this post for current announcements of reopenings . Please consult the museum websites for changes in days and hours. UPDATED September 23, 2020 Advance tickets required for many museum reopenings. Please check museum websites for details. • The  Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)  reopened to the public on  August 27 , with new hours for the first month, through September 27: from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday to the public; and from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.  on Mondays for MoMA members on ly. Admission will be free to all visitors Tuesday through Sunday, through September 27, made possible by UNIQLO. See this  new post on WOTBA for a sense of the experience attending the museum . •  New-York Historical Society  reopened on  August 14  with an outdoor exhibition, "Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine,” in the rear courtyard. The exhibit by activist Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman will highlight how New Yorkers weathered the quarantine

Museums in New York Open on Tuesdays

American Folk Art Museum , 45 W. 53rd St. Asia Society and Museum , 725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street) Guggenheim Museum , 1071 Fifth Avenue (at 89th St.) Pictured left International Center of Photography , 1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street The Metropolitan Museum of Art , 1000 Fifth Avenue NEW: Beginning May 1, 2013 MoMA will be open seven days a week. 11 W. 53rd St. The Morgan Library & Museum , 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street Museum of the City of New York , 1220 Fifth Avenue New York University, Grey Art Gallery , 100 Washington Square East Mondays and Tuesdays are the hardest days to remember which museums are open. See the list for NY museums open on Mondays here .

25 Things To Do Near the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

(updated 2016) The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) at 11 W. 53rd Street is near many other New York City attractions, so before or after a trip to the museum, a short walk in any direction could easily take in additional experiences. Drawing a square on a map with the museum at the center, a shape bounded by 58th Street to the north and 48th Street to the south, with 7th Avenue to the west and Park Avenue to the east, proves the point of the area's cultural richness. (A map follows the list below.) While well-known sightseeing stops fall with these boundaries, most notably Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the great swath of famous Fifth Avenue stores, cultural visitors may also want to check out places such as the Austrian Cultural Forum, the 57th Street galleries, the Onassis Cultural Center, and the Municipal Art Society. The image above shows an intriguing glimpse of the tops of two Beaux-Arts buildings through an opening of the wall inside MoMA's scu

The Thin Man Walk: A New York Holiday Adventure with Nick and Nora Charles

(Revised) Line up the cocktails. As Nick says, "You see the important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. A Manhattan you shake to foxtrot, a Bronx to two-step time. A dry martini you always shake to waltz time." If ever a couple possessed complementary drinking rhythms, it would have to be Nick and Nora Charles , the much-envied glamorous cocktail-swilling quick-thinking duo of Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man . Inspired by the writer's blossoming affair with playwright Lillian Hellman , the novel, published in January of 1934, motivated MGM to rush a cinematic adaptation into production. The movie, released in late May of 1934, proved popular enough to spawn sequels, foremost because of the stellar chemistry and witty performances of William Powell as Nick and Myrna Loy as Nora. Decades later, many people still search for their own Nick or Nora. Beyond the playful banter, the partying Charleses exude a confident security and ease in their

25 Things to Do Near the Metropolitan Museum of Art

(updated) Sitting on the steps in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of those iconic things to do in New York City. On a sunny day, the wide steps can become crowded with the young and old, the tourist and the resident. It's tempting to stay awhile and soak in the sun and the sights. Everyone has reasons for lingering there, with one being the shared pleasure of people watching along this expansive stretch of Fifth Avenue, a painting come to life. Certainly, just getting off one's feet for a moment is welcome, especially if the previous hours involved walking through the entirety of art history from prehistoric to the contemporary. The entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue The Metropolitan Museum of Art should be a singular pilgrimage, uninterrupted by feeble attempts to take in more exhibitions along Museum Mile. Pity the poor visitor who tries "to do" multiple museum exhibitions in one day, albeit ambitious, noble, and uplift

The Marx Brothers in New York: Interlude - On Groucho Walking

This special new series about the Marx Brothers in New York continues this week, following the brothers into a career in Broadway and into the movies, but first I would like to take a little time to discuss Groucho's peculiar way of walking. Sometimes described as a "lope" or "stoop," Groucho's silly and often lecherous walk became just as an important part of his persona as his glasses, eyebrows, cigar and greasepaint moustache. He didn't walk this walk all the time, but as you recall from the films, Groucho would often bend his knees and lean forward as he proceeded from point A to point B. To imitate Groucho properly at a costume party, it's important to get this part down. • Groucho explained that it was simply a bit of inspired improvisation. From the book Hello, I Must Be Going by Charlotte Chandler, he says, "I was just kidding around one day, and I started to walk funny. The audience liked it, so I kept it in."(pps. 153-154) Chand

Coping with Anxiety and Crisis: A Selected List of Fine Chocolate Stores in New York

Fears of recession, concerns about the state of the world, worries about job prospects, and anxieties about the future dominate the news headlines these days, but these kinds of stories are perennial, coloring the way we conduct our lives. Fortunately, we now believe that the 400+ ingredients in dark chocolate may alleviate some of the worst symptoms of this kind of external stress. Had a bad day? A little brisk walk to your local chocolate boutique may fix you right up. It's funny, but studies show that taking a chocolate supplement doesn't work as well for a sense of individual well-being as the act of eating a piece of chocolate. I understand. I think aesthetics matter. Eating beautiful chocolates can make you feel all yummy and special on the inside. My chocolate cravings can even be satisfied by unravelling the classic and minimalist Hershey's bar. Yet, I still prefer a visit to the city's finest purveyors of chocolate. At the following places (links provided), c

25 Radical Things to Do in Greenwich Village

A list of 25 things to Do in Greenwich Village with history of protest, old cafes, and signs of change. Hipstamatic iPhone images of contemporary Greenwich Village by Walking Off the Big Apple (Revised and updated.) Flipping through  Greenwich Village: A Photographic Guide by Edmund T. Delaney and Charles Lockwood with photographs by George Roos, a second, revised edition published in 1976, it’s easy to compare the black and white images with the look of today’s neighborhood and see how much the Village has changed. A long shot photograph of Washington Square taken up high from an apartment north of the park, and with the looming two towers of the World Trade Center off to the distant south in the background, reveals a different landscape than what we would encounter today.    On the north side of the park, an empty lot and two small buildings have since given way to NYU’s Kimmel Center and a new NYU Center for Academic and Spiritual Center Life. The Judson Memorial Church

Taking a Constitutional Walk

A long time ago individuals going out for a walk, especially to get fresh air and exercise, often referred to the activity as "taking a constitutional walk." The word "constitutional" refers to one's constitution or physical makeup, so a constitutional walk was considered beneficial to one's overall wellbeing. (Or, as some would prefer to call it, "wellness.") The phrase is more common in British literature than in American letters. As early as the mid-nineteenth century, many American commentators expressed concern that their countrymen were falling into lazy and unhealthy habits. Newspaper columnists and editorial writers urged their readers to take up the practice of the "constitutional" walk. One such essay, " Walking as an Exercise," originally printed in the Philadelphia Gazette and reprinted in New England Farmer , Volume 11, 1859, urges the people of farm areas to take up walking. City dwellers seemed to have the

At Petrosino Square

SoHo and Nolita make great neighborhoods for strolling, shopping and dining, but it's often hard to find a good place to sit down. Examining the map of the streets south of Houston and north of Canal, only one little area seems convenient - a small park called Petrosino Square at the meeting of Kenmare, Lafayette, and Cleveland Place. Formally opened on October 13, 2009 and now in its final stage of expansion and restoration, a plan that included rebuilding of the original brick columns, the addition of bike racks, plantings, and most conveniently, the placement of several new benches, the square has become the perfect place to stop after exploring the nearby bustling streets. According to the NY Parks announcement last October, the $2 million reconstruction was funded entirely by New York City Council Member Alan Gerson.