Since November 1998, Richmond Hall has housed the penultimate work by the Minimalist sculptor Dan Flavin (1933–96), one of the most innovative artists of the second half of the twentieth century. Except for an installation in Bridgehampton, New York (created in 1985 by the Dia Art Foundation), Flavin’s work at Richmond Hall is the artist’s only permanent installation in the United States.
Born in New York City, Flavin was virtually self-taught as a visual artist. With contemporaries such as Carl Andre and Donald Judd, Flavin employed industrial materials to redefine sculpture in the 1960s. Flavin’s first foray into the use of fluorescent light, the diagonal of May 25, 1963 (to Robert Rosenblum) (1963), introduced his mature period in which he explored a new sense of space that, in his words, "could be disrupted and played with by careful, thorough compositions of light."
By selecting light as his medium, Flavin connects the viewer to one of the most elemental components of existence. Using standard electrical fluorescent tubes, in various combinations of size and color, he investigates the dichotomy between the concrete, revealing the actual tubes and fixtures, and the ethereal, capturing the indefinable dimension of light in space.
The final commission of Dominique de Menil, Flavin’s Richmond Hall installation actually consists of three site-specific artworks from 1996. Running along the top of the east and west exterior walls of the building (constructed in 1930 as a grocery store) is a "frieze" of green fluorescence. Inside, the angled foyer walls hold matching sets of white eight-foot fixtures, mounted diagonally. The vast interior is flanked on opposing east and west walls by four-foot fixtures composed of vertically mounted alternating pink, yellow, green, and blue lamps, bisected by a horizontal line of filtered ultraviolet. The stark simplicity of the geometric arrangement creates a complex, rhythmic blending of color, light, and perspective.