Felix Gonzalez-Torres: The Politics of Relation Sound walk through some of the works of the exhibition
‘I need the viewer, I need the public interaction. Without a public these works are nothing, nothing. I need the public to complete the work. I ask the public to help me, to take responsibility, to become part of my work, to join in.’ Felix Gonzalez-Torres said this to fellow artist Tim Rollins in a 1993 interview, where he alludes to a body of work in which the personal merges with the communal, the aesthetic with the social, the artist with his audience, and in which the fear of loss coexists with ‘the joy of loving, of growing, of changing, of always becoming more’.
Gonzalez-Torres’s stacks are variable installations comprised of both the physical stack of printed sheets and its animation through interaction with visitors. “Untitled” (Republican Years) carries an abstract design in black and white, that suggests an empty frame or moulding evoking a commemorative plaque, thus it can be seen as a kind of monument or anti-monument. Gonzalez-Torres’ use of the theme of the monument is one of the key subthemes explored through the exhibition.
Gonzalez-Torres created a number of ‘portraits’, often of people who were his friends or acquaintances, such as this one of his close friend, gallerist and president of the artist’s foundation, Andrea Rosen, or of collectors or institutions. The peculiarity of these works is that they are textual ‘portraits’, composed only of a series of key words and dates they are closely related to his other dateline works. Usually they are composed of a non-chronological set of dates that are connected to events, themes and associations frequently presented without further specific explanation.
The first room of the exhibition addresses the broad politics of Gonzalez-Torres’ practice as it relates to ideas of authority, judgment and memory/amnesia. The works are linked through oblique references to authoritarian or establishment culture, to fascism and social conservatism, as well as to the repression of the gay community and homophobic attitudes that might refer to the USA during the AIDS crisis in the eighties and nineties, but which can also be connected to Spain and an equivalent repression during and after Franco.
As in many other works by Gonzalez-Torres, in which he conveys meanings that are as varied as they are expressive with very simple objects or materials, "Untitled" (Loverboy), 1989, consists of translucid blue curtains, of variable dimensions. Here it is installed on the Museum’s windows and bathes the corridor and entrance to one of the rooms in a soft blue light. In Gonzalez-Torres’ work, the colour blue has often stood for a range of themes including love or beauty, as well as for fear or revenge, and also relates to his reference to queer poets such as Langston Hughes.
“Untitled” (Blue Placebo), 1991, is created from a conceptually endless supply of candies or sweets in blue wrapping, which can be taken away by the public and thus exists in a state of flux during its exhibition. The colour blue has taken on various thematic significances in Gonzalez-Torres’ work. The poetic and elegiac content of his art is emphasised formally through the colour blue that often stands in his pieces for ideas of love or beauty, as well as for fear or revenge, and also relates to his reference to queer poets such as Langston Hughes.
Gonzalez-Torres’s "Untitled" (Go-Go Dancing Platform), 1991, presents a dancer who appears unannounced and dances on a platform for some minutes to music on a personal music device (originally a Walkman). Gonzalez-Torres’ constantly addresses the body within his work, both through its thematic concerns but also via the body of the spectator, but this work is alone in featuring a performer.
Gonzalez-Torres’s light strings, like much of his work, are adaptable installations that invite the curator or owner to place them in different locations and configurations. “Untitled” (America), 1994, one of his most ambitious works of this type, composed of twelve light strings, was conceived of as an outdoor work and therefore emphasises how in it the artist acts to redefine the monument, perhaps along the lines of a communal gathering or street fiesta, inviting community and conviviality.
The sound walk of this exhibition continues
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