Public Program

In Dialogue: Dan Flavin’s Light Sculpture

James Elkins, E.C. Chadbourne Chair of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, joins Donato Loia, the 2019-2020 Vivian L. Smith Fellow at the Menil Collection, for a conversation about Dan Flavin’s untitled (to Barbara Wool), 1970, and the complicated relationship between art, religion, and spirituality in the twentieth century. Currently installed in the Menil Collection as part of the modern and contemporary art galleries, untitled (to Barbara Wool)—one of Flavin’s iconic works—showcases themes often found in his art: the use of light and mass-produced fluorescent tubes, the rise of industrial materials to the status of art, and the implicit reference to a religious aesthetic.

The live event will stream directly on this page and on the Menil’s YouTube channel. No login or RSVP is required. Beginning at 5:45 p.m., tune in early for an excerpt from Conlon Nancarrow’s String Quartet No. 3, performed by the Aizuri Quartet, which was specially selected for this talk by Da Camera.

A short Q&A will follow the conversation. You are invited to submit your questions in advance and during the program to programs@menil.org.

About the speakers:

James Elkins is the author and editor of books on the history and theory of images in art, science, and nature, including The Art Seminar Series (2005–08); The Stone Art Theory Seminars (2010–15); What Heaven Looks Like (2017). He is also the author of On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art (2004), one of the best-known books on the topic of the relationship between contemporary art and religion.

Donato Loia is the 2019–20 Vivian L. Smith Fellow at the Menil Collection and a PhD candidate in art history at the University of Texas at Austin. He is writing a dissertation on the cultural influence of religious traditions and spiritual questions in contemporary global art. His articles have appeared in Critical Inquiry, Studies in Philosophy and Education, Visual Studies, among other places.

About the series:

In Dialogue is the Menil Collection’s new series of live, online conversations. Menil curators are joined by notable scholars, artists, and art professionals for engaging discussions about the museum’s collection, current exhibitions, and ideas shaping contemporary discourses about art.

All programs are free and open to everyone.