Untitled (right billboard) Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1991-93)
No, this isn't video, and it's reductive to claim these pieces are just about failure, but the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres pulls the viewer into a state of disquietude, where loss and political injustice pull equally at one's heart and mind. The above image of rumpled sheets and the indent of two missing bodies was placed on billboards originally around New York City. Gonzalez-Torres's conceptual work often links personal biography and politics. He understood Untitled (right billboard) as inverting the adage "the personal is political," the private life, and space, and bed of a queer person, or any person, is up for debate and regulation in the political domain.
Untitled (placebo) Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1991)
This piece, made after the death of Gonzalez-Torres's partner from AIDS, takes the form of a heap of candy scattered in the shape of a rectangle on the gallery floor. Viewers are invited to take a piece.
In this quote he describes so well the delicate balance of making art that's intimate to the artist and made (literally) for public consumption:
"After doing all these shows, I've become burnt out with trying to have some kind of personal presence in the work. Because I'm not my art. It's not the form and it's not the shape, not the way these things function that's being put into question. What is being put into question is me. I made "Untitled" (Placebo) because I needed to make it. There was no other consideration involved except that I wanted to make art work that could disappear, that never existed, and it was a metaphor for when Ross was dying. So it was a metaphor that I would abandon this work before this work abandoned me. I'm going to destroy it before it destroys me. That was my little amount of power when it came to this work. I didn't want it to last, because then it couldn't hurt me. From the very beginning it was not even there - I made something that doesn't exist. I control the pain. That's really what it is. That's one of the parts of this work. Of course, it has to do with all the bullshit of seduction and the art of authenticity. I know that stuff, but on the other side, it has a personal level that is very real. It's not about being a con artist. It's also about excess, about the excess of pleasure It's like a child who wants a landscape of candies. First and foremost it's about Ross. Then I wanted to please myself and then everybody."
-Felix Gonzalez-Torres from an interview with Robert Storr, in ArtPress, January 1995