Felix Gonzalez-Torres (November 26, 1957 – January 9, 1996) is a groundbreaking American artist famous for the simplicity and impact of his installations. Gonzalez-Torres used everyday objects, such as candy, to make incredibly open-ended artworks. In the case of his candy works, the audience may choose on their own whether to take candies from the work, thereby potentially altering the work. Gonzalez-Torres believed that permanence was most attainable through the possibility for change, both physically and conceptually. He believed in every member of his audience’s ability to individually decide how to respond, adapt, interpret and engage with the work. As Gonzalez-Torres said, “without the public these works are nothing… I ask the public to help me, to take responsibility, to become part of my work, to join in.”
As well as the audience playing a significant role, each Museum that has been lent the right to exhibit these works is lent the right to make certain decisions, including which materials are used, in what configurations the work is displayed, at what quantity and how the work is regenerated and cared for over the course of the exhibition – as the works are equally about their possibility for decay and dissemination as they are about regeneration and immortality.
This work might challenge your idea of art and change the way you understand the viewer’s role in interpreting artworks. While these works are intended to address many issues over time, they may also address intrinsic ideas around value. For instance, how do we perceive the difference in value of a pile of candies that is not deemed an artwork, versus one that is?
Gonzalez-Torres was an openly gay man living through the AIDS crisis of the 80s and 90s. “Untitled” (L.A.), 1991, was made the same year as Gonzalez-Torres’s longtime partner Ross Laycock died of complications from AIDS. For a time, the two of them lived together in Los Angeles.
“Untitled” (L.A.), 1991 is jointly owned by Art Bridges and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art