Dan Flavin light piece to be installed deep inside a Puerto Rican cave

Dia Art Foundation heads overseas with a major—and potentially controversial—new work by Allora and Calzadilla

by Gareth Harris  |  10 September 2015
Dan Flavin light piece to be installed deep inside a Puerto Rican cave
Allora & Calzadilla, Puerto Rican Light (Cueva Vientos), 2015 will be installed in a cave in Guayanilla–Peñuelas. Photo: Myritza Castilló © Allora & Calzadilla
The high-profile artist duo Allora and Calzadilla, who represented the US at the 2011 Venice Biennale, will unveil later this month one of their most ambitious and audacious works off Puerto Rico’s southwest coast.

The pair have installed a work by Dan Flavin—Puerto Rican Light (to Jeanie Blake), 1965—deep inside a natural limestone cave located in a remote conservation area on the Caribbean island between the municipalities of Guayanilla and Peñuelas. Solar panels at the mouth of the cave will power Flavin’s work, which is made from pink, yellow and red fluorescent lightbulbs.

The piece was commissioned by the New York-based Dia Art Foundation—known for its pivotal land art projects such as Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty in Utah (1970)—and Para la Naturaleza, the non-profit unit of the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico. Funders include the Puerto Rico-based philanthropists Robert and Encarnita Valdes Quinlan and the New Jersey-based Teiger Foundation.

Allora and Calzadilla’s installation, entitled Puerto Rican Light (Cueva Vientos), launches on 23 September; it will be publicly accessible for two years (until 23 September 2017) with visits scheduled for parties of up to six people. The hike to the cave will last around two hours, the organisers say.

Last year, however, the New York Times reported that the Flavin estate had not authorised the use of the late Minimalist’s work. A spokeswoman for David Zwirner gallery in New York, which represents the Flavin estate, says that this remains the case.

“Dia has a difference of opinion with the Flavin estate [regarding the new commission]. But in general, Dia has a very good relationship with the Flavin estate,” says a spokesman for the Dia Art Foundation. He adds that a new Flavin installation is due to launch at Dia:Beacon in the Hudson Valley in October.

The work in Puerto Rico has been several years in the planning. “As with most Dia projects, realising the work over a period of time is an integral part of the process,” says Jessica Morgan, the director of the Dia Art Foundation. The piece is the foundation’s first long-term installation commissioned outside the US since Joseph Beuys's 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks) in Kassel, Germany, in 1982. “We could potentially do more abroad,” Morgan says. 

Guillermo Calzadilla says in a statement that the project “presents a dense interweaving of inter-generational art-historical exchange and postcolonial geographical dislocation”. Previous iterations of Puerto Rican Light were shown at the Americas Society in New York and London’s Tate Modern in 2003.

Allora & Calzadilla's installation Puerto Rican Light (1998/2003) comprising Dan Flavin's Puerto Rican Light (to Jeannie Blake), 1965 and a bank of solar panels and batteries, installed in Tate Modern, London. Photo: Allora & Calzadilla

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