Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996) lived and worked in New York City. His bibliography lists shows in major museums and galleries across this country and in Europe, including solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., and the Renaissance Society in Chicago. A major survey of his work was held at the Guggenheim Museum in February 1995, curated by Nancy Spector.
Gonzalez-Torres is known for his use of simple materials to express often complex, even conflicting notions. His medium is paper, pieces of wrapped candy, a string of lights, or a beaded curtain. The environment for his work can be the cityscape surrounding one of his billboards – this is his “outdoor art,” he specifies, not public art. “Just because it’s out on the street doesn’t make it public.” Or his audience may be the individual collector who purchases an empty box on the promise that the artist will fill it – over time – with objects. Gonzalez-Torres’ work is exhibited in museums and art galleries, reaching the usual audience through unusual means. He arranged stacks of paper, sheets of which were available to anyone who wanted to take them. The unlimited edition of paper was then replenished from time to time, maintaining the work within the artist’s required parameters. The artist said, “I want my artwork to look like something else, non-artistic yet beautifully simple.”
According to Simon Watney, London-based critic and writer:
Gonzalez-Torres finds and mobilizes materials which may function as analogies for experience and emotions which are not “explained” in any extended biographical supplementary exegesis. They are works about love, desire, loss, death, and mourning… They encourage us to make as many associative connections as we like in relation to the materials assembled before us, as well as in relation to previous work.
The possibilities seem endless. The artist’s work reflects sensitivity to his Hispanic roots, but does not conform to a predetermined cultural persona or preoccupation; his work confronts issues related to his gay identity through elegant metaphor.