Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Photostats
An artist whose beautiful, restrained and often mutable works are abundant in compelling contradictions, Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957−1996) was committed to a democratic form of art informed as much by aesthetic and conceptual concerns as by politics. His work eschews the polemical and didactic, while challenging authority and our obeisance to it, dissolving the delineations between public and private, and inviting the viewer to collaborate and complete works with her own inferences, point of view, imagination, and actions.
Made at the height of the AIDS crisis, in a pre-internet era, the photostats—a series of fixed works with white serif text on black fields framed behind glass to create a reflective surface—are profoundly suggestive lists of political, cultural, and historical references. These works disrupt linear time, the seemingly causal relationships of chronology, and hierarchies of information as they ask how we receive and prioritize information, how we remember and forget, and how we continuously create new meaning. The photostats have a deep kinship with poetry in their use of specificity and ambiguity, operating as open fields: each juxtaposition and its oblique friction illuminates connections and disconnections.
The photostats also recall the screen—the television, and now the computer and phone—in which information is furiously delivered, and we are challenged to parse substance from surface, what we choose to assimilate from what we choose to reject. In the gallery, the glass surface of the framed photostats brings the viewer into an intimate relationship with the work as she may literally see herself in it—reflecting, too, her own assumptions. Now, as we find ourselves thirty years later, in a global pandemic, with a national reckoning in the face of enduring protests against police brutality and racial injustice, there is more to see of ourselves in the photostats and their uncanny multiplicity: layers of history with which we are only beginning to grapple as a society, grief in the wake of devastating loss, and the possibility of reinvention and regeneration.
Intended as discrete space to closely read the photostats with sustained attention, this elegant, clothbound volume opens from both sides: on one side, the framed photostats are reproduced as objects as one might encounter them in a gallery; on the other, white texts appear on full-bleed black fields to be read as writing. Its intimate size and its attention to the book as a physical object create a new way to experience the photostats.
In between the two sides, there are gorgeous and thought-provoking writings by poets Mónica de la Torre and Ann Lauterbach that do not explicate the work but instead enter it. Lauterbach penetrates the atmosphere of the photostats, contemplating mourning and memory while invoking Gonzalez-Torres’s spirit of generosity. De la Torre mines Gonzalez-Torres’s dates and references in her constraint-based essay, tracing time from past to present, while keenly attentive to the impossibility of linearity. Both demonstrate the richness of the work and its potential to inspire multiple readings.
“In an era of social distancing, can a fortune cookie help bring us together? That question, and several others, are at the core of a new exhibition by Andrea Rosen Gallery and David Zwirner of the late artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres.
For the show, which will run from May 25 to July 5, Rosen and Zwirner will present Gonzalez-Torres’s 1990 “Untitled” (Fortune Cookie Corner), a piece consisting of an endless pile of fortune cookies that can be taken away and consumed by viewers. “We are all thinking about virtual experiences and how disconnected we all feel virtually, and yet Felix’s work is something that can physically happen,” dealer Andrea Rosen, who curated the exhibition, told ARTnews. ‘It can be a physical experience that can connect us all.’”
Read the full article in Artnet news
November 3, 2018–May 12, 2019
“Untitled” (Chemo) (1991), a beaded curtain work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, is included in Groundings at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago. Organized by Grace Deveney, MCA assistant curator, and Tara Aisha Willis, MCA associate curator of performance, the exhibition explores movement through a combination of artists’ residencies—allowing performers to use the gallery space for live rehearsals and performances—and existing works.
“Gonzalez-Torres choreographed for the viewer, suggesting paths to travel and actions to take,” Carol Bove writes in Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Specific Objects Without Specific Form, a book documenting the retrospective curated by Elena Filipovic with Bove, Tino Sehgal, and Danh Vo in 2010–2011, which included “Untitled” (Chemo). "The show was designed to complicate viewing," she continues, "so the viewer had to think about how to be a viewer at each stage: remove a poster, look at a traditional photograph, pass through a curtain, and so on. But it was also designed to circumvent or disrupt thinking through the use of elegance, beauty, touch, sexual desire, and candy."
“Untitled” (Chemo) was presented at David Zwirner in New York in 2017 as part of the gallery’s first exhibition of the artist’s influential work.
Image: Installation view, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, David Zwirner, New York, 2017
Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Specific Objects Without Specific Form
A special talk and book event to celebrate the release of Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Specific Objects Without Specific Form was held at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel on June 15, 2017. Elena Filipovic and Tino Sehgal were present in conversation about Gonzalez-Torres's work, the structure of the exhibition, and the publication.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Specific Objects Without Specific Form documents the groundbreaking retrospective curated by Elena Filipovic with the artists Danh Vo, Carol Bove, and Tino Sehgal that traveled to Wiels Contemporary Art Centre in Brussels, Fondation Beyeler in Basel, and MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt in 2010 and 2011.
Organized by Wiels Contemporary Art Centre in collaboration with the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, the exhibition offered visitors the possibility of finding a new interpretation of Gonzalez-Torres's work with each visit. Following the installation of a retrospective version of the exhibition at each institution by Elena Filipovic, an artist whose practice has been informed by Gonzalez-Torres's work was invited to entirely re-install the show halfway through its duration. Danh Vo's version was presented at Wiels, Carol Bove's at the Fondation Beyeler, and Tino Sehgal's at the Museum für Moderne Kunst. Through this structure, the exhibition evolved into several different forms—none being the definitive one.
The publication has been years in the making as Elena Filipovic and the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation worked together to find the best ways to present the complexities and nuances of the exhibition. The book includes installation views of each version of the show and an illustrated checklist with images of the artworks in every instance of their installation. The structure of the publication allows the reader to see the immensely different ways the artworks can be installed, as well as how context acted on and through each piece during the cycle of exhibitions.
Exhibition at The David Ireland House in San Francisco
May 12 – June 29, 2017
Felix Gonzalez-Torres's paper stack work “Untitled” (Passport) (1991) was installed at The David Ireland House as part of the exhibition Box of Angels. David Ireland (1930-2009) was an artist and architect whose best-known work is his own house at 500 Capp Street in San Francisco—at once an environmental artwork, social sculpture, and his residence for 30 years. The house is now a venue for exhibitions and for the preservation of his work.
Installed in the guest bedroom of the house, “Untitled” (Passport) recalls The Savage Garden at Fundacion 'la Caixa' in Madrid, a group exhibition in 1991 which featured works by both Ireland and Gonzalez-Torres.
Works by Felix Gonzalez-Torres feature in "Infinite Blue" and "…circle through New York"
Works by Felix Gonzalez-Torres were part of two exhibitions in New York.
At the Brooklyn Museum, Infinite Bluewas an exhibition of diverse works that variously reference blue—what the museum calls, "a fascinating strand of visual poetry running from ancient times to the present day." Hanging in a series of doorways inside the museum lobby was Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s last "curtain" work, "Untitled" (Water) (1995), made from strands of blue, silver, and translucent plastic beads. The show was part of A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism at the Brooklyn Museum, a yearlong series of ten exhibitions celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.
The work "Untitled" (Public Opinion) (1991) was included in … circle through New York, a project in which selected artworks rotated among six public locations in the city from March 1 through August 30. Situated around an imaginary circle drawn through Harlem, the South Bronx, Queens, and Manhattan's Upper East Side, the exhibition sites included a pet shop, a TV network, an academic research institute, the Guggenheim, and a church. "Untitled" (Public Opinion) takes the form of spill of cellophane wrapped black rod licorice candies and is displayed as either a corner or a floor piece; as the work traveled around the different locations, it was installed by a team of museum professionals in response to the architecture of each site. This was the first time "Untitled" (Public Opinion) has been exhibited outside the context of a museum or gallery. ...circle through New York was commissioned as part of Guggenheim Social Practice, an initiative made possible by a grant from the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations.
Solo exhibition at Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai
In September 2016, the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai presented the first solo exhibition of work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres in China. Curated by the Director of the Rockbund Art Museum Larys Frogier and the museum’s Senior Curator Li Qi, Felix Gonzalez-Torres included over 40 works dating from 1987 to 1995. The works were selected from 30 institutions and collections around the world.
Above: Installation view of Felix Gonzalez-Torres at Rockbund Art Museum (2016)
Public Art Fund Honors 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising with Billboard by Felix Gonzalez-Torres
"For the entire month of June, the Public Art Fund will present Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s first billboard, which was unveiled in 1989 in the West Village in New York. The work will be situated in its original location, on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Christopher Street, above Village Cigars and steps away from the Stonewall Inn.
The organization worked with Gonzalez-Torres to create the work to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, which is often cited as a catalyst of the Gay Liberation movement. Now, 30 years later, on the eve of the event’s 50th anniversary at the end of June, the Public Art Fund has collaborated with the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, the artist died of AIDS-related causes in 1996 at 38, and Google, which usually advertises in the billboard space.
The billboard is mostly black, save for two lines of white text, and relies on the artist’s the artist’s specific strategy of presenting nonlinear dates and events as a means to collapse the notion of history as something chronological. The text for the billboard reads: ‘People With AIDS Coalition 1985 Police Harassment 1969 Oscar Wilde 1895 Supreme Court 1986 Harvey Milk 1977 March on Washington 1987 Stonewall Rebellion 1969.’"
Read the full article in ARTnews
On the occasion of this project, Public Art Fund is holding a panel discussion on public art and activism on Monday, June 2, 2019. The panel will include Joy Episalla, artist and founding member of the queer women artists’ collective fierce pussy, Avram Finkelstein, co-founder of the collective Silence=Death Project, which created the "Silence=Death" AIDS awareness campaign to combat institutional silence surrounding homophobia and HIV/AIDS, and film director, activist, and author Paola Mendoza, co-founder and artistic director of the first Women's March on Washington.
Image: Installation view, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled", 1989, Sheridan Square, New York, 2019