Exhibition—Félix González-Torres at David Zwirner

The work of the late Cuban-born artist Félix González-Torres will be on view at David Zwirner (at 519, 525 & 533 West 19th Street, New York, New York) from January 12 to February 25, 2023. According to David Zwirner, “the exhibition will feature four major installations—two of which have never been realized in the manner envisioned by Gonzalez-Torres before his untimely death in 1996.” González-Torres died in Miami on January 6, 1996, from AIDS-related causes.

Description of “Felix Gonzalez-Torres”: [. . .] This will be the second solo exhibition of Gonzalez-Torres’s work at David Zwirner since the announcement that the gallery would be joining Andrea Rosen Gallery in co-representing the artist’s estate.

“Untitled” (1994–1995) and “Untitled” (Sagitario) (1994–1995) are two installations that Gonzalez-Torres had fully conceptualized, and which were scheduled to debut at a significant one-person exhibition at CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux in 1995. For institutional reasons, the exhibition was rescheduled and ultimately never occurred. “Untitled” is composed of two freestanding billboard structures, configured so that a viewer, when facing the structures, sees the front of one billboard and the back of the other. Each bears a black-and-white image by Gonzalez-Torres depicting a bird flying beneath overcast skies. Though related to his well-known billboard works, which are intended to be installed in multiple and varying outdoor locations simultaneously, and his use of images of birds in the sky, “Untitled” is distinctive in that it is an immersive installation incorporating timed sound and lighting components. The work is also intended for an indoor space, reorienting and creating complexity around the perceived boundaries between public versus private space.

“Untitled” (Sagitario) consists of two twelve-foot diameter circular reflecting pools, embedded in the floor and positioned to be just touching. The water will be even with the floor of the gallery space, causing a nearly imperceptible exchange of water between the two pools. Movement and small disruptions or vibrations—or even the sound element from “Untitled”—may also visibly resonate on the pools’ surfaces.

In the middle gallery will be “Untitled” (Public Opinion) (1991), a candy work on loan from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Listed at an “ideal weight” of 700 pounds, this work may be thought of as one of Gonzalez-Torres’s largest candy pieces, yet—like all of Gonzalez-Torres’s candy works—it can shift in scale, form, and number of simultaneous locations within and throughout each manifestation, in addition to potentially being affected by the audience’s interaction. Among the many ways in which this work can be understood and experienced—its form and title summoning both the personal and the political, the individual and the collective, the historically contingent and the enduring—“Untitled” (Public Opinion) offers a distinct form of engagement that expands upon and complements the experiential conditions of “Untitled” and “Untitled” (Sagitario). Composed of an “endless supply” of black candy in clear wrappers, its appearance also pairs with the clear water of the pools and the black-and-white images of the billboards, lending additional affinities to their presentation together. These three works will serve as anchors in each of the gallery spaces, elucidating the artist’s remarkable ability to evoke the personal in the monumental and the sublime in the understated, and his interest in shifting ideas of what may be perceived as permanent and what may be perceived as malleable.

In addition to these three individual works, each of the galleries will also present distinct versions of “Untitled” (Portrait of the Magoons) (1993), one of Gonzalez-Torres’s word portraits. The presentation of three versions of the work highlights its ability to exist in more than one place at a time, as well as underscoring the fact that at the core of the portrait works is Gonzalez-Torres’s intention that each manifestation be an opportunity for a new version, in which content could be added, removed, changed or rearranged, that is, to be perpetually mutable. As with all of Gonzalez-Torres’s portrait works, “Untitled” (Portrait of the Magoons) (1993) comprises short textual entries and dates that are presented directly on the wall in horizontal registers at “frieze” height. The portrait works are the only body of Gonzalez-Torres’s work that were made in collaboration with the initial owners. When an owner manifests or lends a portrait, they may determine the version or versions that will be installed, or they may choose to extend the right to make a version to another individual with the knowledge of the specific, yet open-ended parameters of the work. In this exhibition, distinct versions of “Untitled” (Portrait of the Magoons) will be determined by Coco Fusco and Glenn Ligon, two artists whose expansive practices and interests dovetail with Gonzalez-Torres’s, and Nancy Magoon, who, along with her late husband Robert, are the portrait’s subjects and original owners.

As this exhibition delves deeply into the nature of the portrait works, David Zwirner will also present a new edition of its celebrated Program video series, hosted by Helen Molesworth, in which the three individuals who authored the distinct versions of “Untitled” (Portrait of the Magoons) will be interviewed. 

Through this special and intentional selection of works and the distinctive format in which they will be presented, this exhibition will afford new and reconceived approaches to understanding and experiencing Gonzalez-Torres’s art. In particular, the inclusion of the two works that have never previously been seen as they were originally intended by the artist will shed light on the evolution of key motifs, ideas, and conceptual throughlines that animated Gonzalez-Torres’s practice.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres was born in Guáimaro, Cuba, on November 26, 1957. He referred to himself as American. He lived and worked in New York City between 1979 and 1995. He began his art studies at the University of Puerto Rico before moving to New York City, where he attended the Whitney Independent Study Program, first in 1981 and again in 1983. He received his BFA from Pratt Institute, New York, in 1983 and his MFA from the International Center of Photography and New York University in 1987.
From 1987 to 1991, Gonzalez-Torres was a part of the artist collective Group Material, whose collaborative, politically-informed practice focused on community engagement and activist interventions. In 1988, he had his first one-man exhibitions, at the Rastovski Gallery, New York, INTAR Gallery, New York, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York. His earliest billboard work, “Untitled” (1989), was installed at New York’s Sheridan Square on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. In 1990, a solo presentation of Gonzalez-Torres’s work served as the inaugural exhibition of the Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.
In 1994, Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Traveling, a survey of the artist’s work, was presented at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, and the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago. In 1995, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, organized an international traveling retrospective of his work. The artist participated in numerous group shows during his lifetime, including early presentations at Artists Space and White Columns in New York (1987 and 1988, respectively), the Whitney Biennial (1991), the Venice Biennale (1993), and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1995) and the Art Institute of Chicago (1995). [. . .]

Continue reading at https://www.davidzwirner.com/exhibitions/2023/felix-gonzalez-torres

[Image above: Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (Portrait of the Magoons), 1993, installed in the home of a private collector. Courtesy Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation.]

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