Felix Gonzalez-Torres. ?Untitled? (Perfect Lovers). 1991. Clocks, paint on wall.
Between 1987 and 1990 artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres made an edition of 3 plus 1 artist?s proof of ?Untitled? (Perfect Lovers)?, which consists of a identical pair of store-bought black-rimmed clocks. The piece was dedicated to his lover Ross Laycock, who died of an AIDS-related illness in 1991. In the same year Gonzalez-Torres created a white version of the work, which is owned by the MoMa, New York. The guidelines regarding how the work should be arranged and displayed are the following: ?When installed, the two clocks were to touch; the clocks could be replaced with white plastic commercial clocks of similar dimensions and design; the minute and second hands were to be set in sync, with the understanding that eventually they might go out of sync during the course of the exhibition; if one of the clocks needed the batteries replaced, it was to be done, and the clocks were to be reset accordingly; the clocks were to be displayed on a wall painted light blue.?
Throughout his work, Gonzalez-Torres (American, born Cuba. 1957?1996) questioned the notion of the unique art object, making series of works based on identical pairs (two clocks ticking side-by-side, two mirrors embedded in a wall) or finding inspiration in the possibilities of endless reproducibility (stacks of sheets as give-aways for visitors, piles of candy to be continually replenished). He wanted his work to be disseminated, to exist in multiple places at the same time, and to be realized completely only through the participation of the viewer, which he described as ?one enormous collaboration with the public,? in which the ?pieces just disperse themselves like a virus that goes to many different places?homes, studios, shops, bathrooms, whatever.? Reproducibility, collaboration, and circulation?sound familiar? His particular approach, which has been enormously influential for contemporary artistic practice, also made Gonzalez-Torres an essential presence in Print/Out.
For Gonzalez-Torres, art was an effective means of addressing social concerns?even more so when it could be multiplied. Inhabiting the familiar forms of Minimalism and post-Minimalism with his stacks and floor pieces, the artist embedded subtle but insistent references to current issues, from political violence to gay rights. In billboard projects like ?Untitled?, the artist played with the powerful juxtapositions that could be generated between private and public spaces. By choosing this photograph of his bed, the artist exposed this most intimate of spaces, emphasized by the rumpled sheets and the recent impressions of two heads in the pillows. In the early 1990s, with controversies surrounding homosexuality and the AIDS crisis simultaneously wreaking havoc across the gay community, the bed also represented a site of conflict, symbolizing both love and death. That Gonzalez-Torres?s partner, Ross, died of AIDS in 1991 brings an intensely personal note to this work, but does not diminish it of its universal associations with comfort, intimacy, loneliness, or loss.
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