The St. Moritzian Vito Schnabel Gallery is currently exhibiting light installations of the American artist Dan Flavin. Moreover, there are ceramics by Lucie Rie and Hans Coper from Flavin’s private collection on display.
Overall, eighteen of Dan Flavin’s (1933 – 1996) light installations, simple symmetrical combinations, dominate the two-level premises of Vito Schnabel Gallery in St. Moritz. The exhibition was conceived in collaboration with Stephen Flavin, the son of Dan Flavin who manages his father’s estate. Stephen Flavin is also the curator of the show. The exhibited works are dedicated to the two ceramicists Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, and fifteen of their works from Dan Flavin’s private collection, are on view.
In the entrance area of the gallery, visitors are almost blinded by Dan Flavin’s brightly radiant works made of fluorescent light tubes in warm-, cold- and daylight-white which fascinatingly illuminate the room – especially in the evening – and attract the viewer in an almost magical way. The nine works, untitled (to Hans Coper, master potter) from 1990 are all dedicated to Hans Coper. Although born in Chemnitz (Germany), Hans Coper is considered one of the greatest British studio potters of the 20th century. Fleeing from the Nazis, he left Germany and lived in England until his death in 1981. His work is typically known for their abstract forms with vivid surfaces and textures, and protrusions and goblet-shaped cantilevers. Coper used to describe the sculptural vessels as flowers, arrows, eggs or buds.
Lucie Rie also had to emigrate from Austria. She ran a pottery studio in London, where Coper started working in 1946. Her body of work is characterized as precise, flawless, delicate, and inspired by Chinese and Japanese forms and glazes. Her later pieces also include the Sgraffito-technique. She became famous for her tea and coffee sets.
Recognizing Kindred Spirits
The ceramics of Coper and Rie, who worked together for 35 years, seem to contrast with Flavin’s stringent installations. Flavin, who in the ‘80s started collecting their work, apparently recognized right away that they are like-minded people, despite how different their expression was.
Flavin dedicated to Lucie Rie these specific works - thrilling with their colorfulness - which are exhibited on the lower level of the gallery. They also originate from 1990 and are named untitled (to Lucie Rie, master potter). The yellow, green, pink, blue and red lights emanating from commercial fluorescent light tubes, give the room a sensual splendor.
The Visitor Becomes Part of the Artwork
Flavin’s works, made out of ordinary industrial products, transform space and perception, and create unique volumes of light and color.
Through his work, Dan Flavin lets the visitor become part of the artwork, blurring the boundaries between space, object, and the viewer. The strong light alters the skin tone and the color of the visitor’s clothes as they become part of the light works, of which he conceived a total number of 950. These artworks which question proportion and shape of space, can be found in numerous museums as well as in private collections and public spaces. Flavin used to call his works “Image Objects” with the intention of describing their pictorial and object-like expression.
Apart from the individual pieces exhibited at Vito Schnabel Gallery, Flavin also created extensive works, and his last one is on display at the Santa Maria Annunciata in Chiesa Rossa.