At Andrea Rosen Gallery, the first leg of a three-part exhibition commemorating the legacy of Felix Gonzalez-Torres concentrates on a single thread of the late artist’s expansive oeuvre. Each one of his portraits—often times installed at their subjects’ residences—depicts a selected subject through a selection of important or trivial happenings loosely attached to the subject’s biography. Placed on high ends of the gallery walls, right before ceilings begin, the portraits complicate hierarchies between climaxes and details in one’s lifespan, while challenging the methods of displaying art. Curated by Julie Ault and Roni Horn, this current installment is set to continue with exhibitions at Massimo De Carlo in Milan and Hauser & Wirth in London this month, weaving an intercontinental dialogue through other prominent threads in the Cuban-born artist’s body of work.
One of the most influential conceptual artists of his generation, despite of his early passing due to AIDS-related complications, Gonzalez-Torres has garnered acclaim that has been steadily rising over the years thanks to his universal and enduring depiction of the human condition. Capturing his audience off-guard through subtle but profound narratives, his works seek viewer participation—be they physical or emotional—and offer engagements that at first seem somewhat mundane. Generally granted with small tokens of these minuscule interactions, the participants are eventually immersed into undiscovered territories for introspection. Driven by his personal life, as well as social and political fluctuations, the artist delivers relatable commentaries on universal concepts of time, loss, and memory. Leaving his audience with bittersweet aftertastes from these brief encounters, Gonzalez-Torres ushers them en route self-discovery.
Installed throughout the gallery are four portraits, among them one of curator Julie Ault. The works are susceptible to alteration by their owners or assignees in the light of current personal and public events—with every installment changing slightly based on their own personal narratives and changing life-experiences. Accordingly, their alignments transform and shift over time, yet never finalize. Such unceasing renewal is generated by a diligent resistance against death and stagnancy, reflecting a crucial component of Gonzalez-Torres’ work, widely manifested in the rejuvenation of declining materials, such as candies, papers or sheets, as bodies are depleted or recharged.
Underlined here, on the other hand, is an urge for readjustment by shifting the criteria for how history is written. While a good portion of the moments listed throughout seem deeply personal and foreign, they tap on principles of human experience, and deliver oblique or direct connotations on the physical bounds of existence. Accumulation of moments that are bygone pave the path for numerous future possibilities yet to be experienced.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres is on view at Andrea Rosen Gallery through June 18th, 2016.
— O.C. Yerebakan