- Felix Gonzalez-Torres in an interview with Tim Rollins
An unmade bed with white sheets, perhaps just abandoned, blown up on an enormous advertisement board in the middle of New York. Lights that have been thrown into a heap or that are hanging down from the ceiling, two clocks that are ticking side by side, colourful sweets in a corner. At first glance, the works from Cuban-born Felix Gonzalez-Torres appear to be simple and arbitrary. Upon closer inspection, they become beautiful and poetic compositions of everyday objects.
Untitled (Blue Placebo) is made up of around 130kg of white drops, individually packaged in electric blue cellophane and laid out over the floor like a carpet. This work can both be touched and eaten. When someone who understands the principle stands close and reverently and chooses a sweet, the others fill their pockets and hurry on. You have those who are taken aback by the frankness of others, and those who look at it like those who look at art, with arms behind their backs and a serious expression.
For Gonzalez-Torres, this work was first and foremost about loss, and more specifically his own loss of his partner Ross Laycock who died from AIDS in 1991. The fantastic weight of the drops symbolize the weight of Gonzalez-Torres and Ross, which is fading, almost like a ritual, drop by drop, until there is nothing left. The work is both ephemeral and eternal, in that it can be reassembled once all the drops are gone. The title in brackets, Blue Placebo, points towards a political dimension: the medicine that the people with AIDS were given in the 90s was usually just that, placebo. By combining both political and deep personal matters with something as innocent as sweets, Gonzalez-Torres hits a nerve that is difficult to ignore. The childish joy of doing something unheard of in a museum, is juxtaposed with something that is more serious and contemplative.
Gonzalez-Torres himself died from AIDS a few years after Ross. But, through his ephemeral work, he continues to live, as steady as ever. He managed to make his mark on the world, as he wanted. On 16th October, the exhibition Good Morning America opens where González-Torres is one of the six main American artists from the museum’s collection.