"It is a sacrilege," bell hooks wrote in a 1994 essay about the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "to reserve this beauty solely for art." The latest exhibition of his work, and the first at David Zwirner Gallery, arrives on the occasion of the artist's longtime gallerist and estate executor Andrea Rosen's recently announced co-representation of Gonzales-Torres's estate with David Zwirner. The exhibit offers a tidy summary of Gonzalez-Torres's formal vocabulary (including his work in billboards, with five additionally installed around the city) and draws out the urgent beauty hooks described in his art.
In conversations about the artist–who was also a member of the art-activism collective Group Material–critics and scholars often assign this urgency to the political conditions related to Gonzalez-Torres's biography as a queer Cuban-American living with HIV. Much has changed since the artist's death during the epidemic in 1996, and yet here we are today, with Rose Garden overtures to the Religious Right at the White House last month and debates, fiercer than ever, over our health care system. The exhibition seems occasional, too, for this political return, summed up in the title of one of the paper stacks on view, "Untitled" (Republican Years) (1992), a paper cenotaph for the victims and destruction of the Reagan-Bush years.
Each of the galleries elicit reverence, as if one were entering a chapel upon entering each room. The spare arrangement of works throughout focuses attention on individual pieces, to be appreciated in isolation as well as in relation to specific works, and emphasizes the volume of space surrounding and between each piece, insulating and enhancing their soft vibrations.