The body of work that Felix Gonzalez-Torres created is one of the most innovative and profound in contemporary art. He made artworks which simultaneously contained personal, political, and aesthetic attributes, and were often executed in ordinary, but surprising, materials, such as stacks of many sheets of paper, piles of colorfully wrapped candies, and strings of lightbulbs.
Gonzalez-Torres uses these objects to express his own very personal emotions, and at the same time he invites the public to participate in the realization of the final work of art. The pieces of paper and candy do not achieve their full significance until the audience takes the papers from the stacks or eats the candy. And the lightbulbs await the contemplation of the viewer in order to achieve their finished state.
As the artist stated: "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." The light string pieces reveal no human touch, no color, and no permanence. Their significance is open-ended, and are meant for the public audience--workers, commuters, pedestrians, taxi drivers, shoppers -- to infuse their own meaning into the object.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres' works frequently serve as a metaphor for human relationships and interaction, and are often composed of two elements. One piece is referred to as "Untitled" (Perfect Lovers), and consists of a pair of identical commercial clocks that are hung side by side on the wall, and each clock is telling the exact same time. For the artist, the clocks represented he and his male lover, and allude to an ideal and perfect romance with both partners in perfect synchronization. However, it is unlikely that the two clocks (lovers) will remain in synch, because each has a different mechanism, and each has a battery with differing life spans. Unfortunately, Gonzalez-Torres' lover did have a shorter life span, and died too soon--just as Felix Gonzalez-Torres would.