A Colossal New Show Revisits a Conceptual Art Icon
In an artist statement from 1988, Felix Gonzalez-Torres described his work for a show at the New Museum as "panoramas in which the fictional, the important, the banal and the historical are collapsed into a single caption." Gonzalez-Torres, who was born in Cuba but came to define the New York art world in the 1980s and '90s before dying of AIDS in 1996, considered himself excluded "from the circle of power where social and cultural values are elaborated." He rejected "the imposed and established order."
There is, then, a strange pleasure in seeing the artist's survey, on view now at David Zwirner Gallery in New York, one of the largest commercial dealers in the world. For the show, the gargantuan exhibition space on West 20th Street appears mostly devoid of physical objects, but so full of meaning that it feels as if the walls might burst. There are two small clocks installed side-by-side on one wall, ticking in unison. On the floor against one wall is a mound of candy in gold wrappers that viewers are invited to eat from freely. Another room contains two stacks of paper resting on the floor, also available to take. Scattered throughout all five boroughs of the city are public billboards featuring an image of a bird flying across a cloudy sky. They are installed at unassuming locales, as if in secret–a gas station in Brooklyn, an intersection in Queens, beneath a similarly sized "Kars 4 Kids" billboard on Staten Island. Their presence seems to saturate these bland locations with an eerie, foreign beauty.