“I have usually chosen to live by broad expanses of water. I prefer to sense that breadth in continuous flux.”
For over thirty years, Dan Flavin made particular arrangements of lightbulbs that viewers have appreciated in at least two ways: (1) as physical objects (light fixtures) that serve as sculpture and (2) as light emitting sources that cause a viewer to pay close attention to brightness, colors, and the interaction those colors have amongst themselves and in space. For the same length of time, Flavin also explored another phenomenon: that of wind. Like light, wind is both experiential and intangible. His drawings and prints of wind, often made with quick calligraphic strokes and smudged counterpoints, recorded his experiences of the atmosphere surrounding boats, water, and sails. Isabelle Dervaux, the curator of the Morgan Library’s exhibition on Flavin’s drawings, described in one work how “a few long lines drawn in a single movement of the hand register the curve of sails in the wind, while a denser area combining shorter strokes, stumping marks, and even smudging, with fingertips suggest water splashing around the hull.”
Emily Rauh Pulitzer, curator of Flavin’s first exhibition devoted to prints and drawings (in 1976 at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Fort Worth Museum of Art), described how in several works, a “circular motion of the turning boat is seen against the strong horizontals of the water and horizon, which are broken only by the boat’s near-vertical mast and the curving diagonal of its sail.” With rapid execution and a clarity through sparse refinement, Flavin brought attention to wind, something that otherwise had little definition.