Flavin retrospective opens Lotte’s art museum : Exhibit highlights the works of pioneering minimalist artist

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Flavin retrospective opens Lotte’s art museum : Exhibit highlights the works of pioneering minimalist artist


American minimalist artist Dan Flavin’s large-scale fluorescent light fixture installation “Untitled (to you, Heiner, with admiration and affection)” is now on view at the new Lotte Museum of Art in southern Seoul as part of a retrospective of his work. [LOTTE MUSEUM OF ART]

People tend to expect a public-friendly exhibition to be held in a new art museum surrounded by a shopping mall. But Lotte Museum of Art, which opens today on the seventh floor of the Lotte World Tower in southern Seoul, has chosen to display a retrospective of American minimalist artist Dan Flavin (1933-96), who is important in art history but not very easy for the public to understand, as its inaugural exhibition.

“We wanted to start with an exhibition that had never been held before in Korea,” Han Kwang-kyu, chief executive officer of the new museum, said in a press preview on Thursday. “An exhibition featuring minimalist art is rare even in other Asian countries. And we admire the conceptual shift of Flavin, who created artworks from industrial objects,” said Han.

Most of Flavin’s works from 1963 are made with commercially available fluorescent tubes in various colors, including yellow, green, pink and blue.

Flavin was quoted by the museum as saying, “I knew that the actual space of a room could be broken down and played with by planting illusions of real light at crucial junctures in the room’s composition.”

The exhibition features 14 of Flavin’s works from his relatively early days, as the title “Dan Flavin, Light: 1963-1974” suggests.

“These works show how he developed his ideas about working with materials and industrial objects,” said Courtney J. Martin, deputy director and chief curator of Dia Art Foundation.

The New York-based foundation that supports contemporary art projects loaned the works by Flavin for this exhibition.


Left: Dan Flavin’s earliest work made of fluorescent tube, “The Diagonal of May 23, 1963 (to Constantin Brancusi),” is part of his retrospective. Right: Flavin’s two works “Untitled (to Shirley and Jason)”(1969), left, and “Untitled”(1969), right, are installed at the Lotte Museum of Art. [LOTTE MUSEUM OF ART]

According to the museum, Flavin’s and other minimalists’ moves were “shifting away from the overly gestural canvases of the Abstract Expressionists,” which dominated the American art scene in the 1950s. In a 1965 essay, Flavin summed up his practice as “decisions to combine traditions of painting and sculpture in architecture with acts of electric light defining space.”

The exhibition starts with his first work made solely of fluorescent light, “The Diagonal of May 25, 1963 (to Constantin Brancusi).”

Why Romanian sculptor Brancusi? “It was Flavin’s announcement that he is an artist equal to sculptural master Brancusi, although Flavin was never trained as an artist but he studied art history,” explained Martin.

The title also implies Flavin’s inspiration from Brancusi, especially his “Endless Column,” which attempts to visualize infinity with a tall column made up of repeated motifs.

Many of Flavin’s works have the names of those who inspired him in their titles. Among the exhibits are “Monument for V, Tatlin”(1974). Flavin was inspired by Russian constructivist artist and architect Vladimir Tatlin, who embraced space in his works.

Among the other highlights is “Untitled (to you, Heiner, with admiration and affection).” It is a large-scale barrier with repeated grids made of green-light fluorescent tubes.

BY MOON SO-YOUNG [symoon@joongang.co.kr]

The exhibition runs until Apr. 8. Admission is 13,000 won ($12.25) for adults. Go to Jamsil Station, lines No. 2 and No. 8, exit No. 2. For details, visit www.lottemuseum.com or call 1544-7744.
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