You are in Artists > Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Citizenship: cu , us
Place(s) of work: new york city (us)
A Cuban-born American citizen, Gonzalez-Torres is best known for his immensely generous yet rigorously conceptual art in the form of endlessly replenishable paper stacks, take-away candy spills, light strings, beaded curtains, and public billboards. With its minimalist refinement and quiet referentiality, his work treads a fine line between social commentary and personal disclosure, equivocating between the two realms and obscuring the culturally-determined distinctions that separate them. Shifting from cultural activism to intimate, autobiographical dimensions—and subsequently eroding the boundaries between—Gonzalez-Torres used the aesthetic allure of his art to stage a subtle critique of social injustice and intolerance. By creating open-ended, participatory artworks, he entrusted his viewers to engage with and ultimately activate their meaning.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres was born in Güaimaro, Cuba, in 1957. In 1970, he and his sister were sent to Madrid, where they stayed in an orphanage until settling in Puerto Rico with an aunt and uncle in 1971. Gonzalez-Torres graduated from the Colegio San Jorge in 1976 and began his art studies at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, while actively participating in the local art scene. In 1979 he moved to New York with a fellowship to study at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. The following year he participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program, where his development as an artist was profoundly influenced by his introduction to postmodern theory. He attended the program a second time in 1983, the year he received his BFA from Pratt.
Gonzalez-Torres’s first solo exhibitions in New York were held at the Intar Latin American Gallery and the Rastovski Gallery in 1988. In 1989, he exhibited a billboard in Sheridan Square, New York City, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. In 1990 he began exhibiting with the Andrea Rosen Gallery, which continues to represent his work today. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, invited Gonzalez-Torres to participate in its Projects series in 1992, for which he created his photographic billboard of an empty, but previously occupied, double bed that was shown in locations throughout the city.
Gonzalez-Torres participated in hundreds of group shows during his lifetime, including early presentations at Artist’s Space and White Columns in New York (1987 and 1988, respectively); the Whitney Biennial (1991); the Venice Biennale (1993); SITE/Santa Fe (1995); and the Sydney Biennale (1996). Since his death, there have been numerous exhibitions devoted to his work, including ones organized by the Sprengel Museum Hannover (1997–98); the Serpentine Gallery, London (2000); and the Biblioteca Luís Angél Arango, Banco de la República, Bogotá, Colombia (1999–2000). Recent exhibitions include a retrospective at the Hamburger Bahnhof–Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2006), and an exhibition of formative work executed in Puerto Rico at El Museo del Barrio, New York (2006). Gonzalez-Torres died from complications due to AIDS on January 9, 1996.
Take a video tour of Gonzalez-Torres' posthumous U.S. pavilion in the 2007 Venice Biennale [via VernissageTV]:(read less)
Techniques & Media: Installation, Mixed Media, Sculpture
Inspirations & Key Themes: AIDS, identity, Public vs Private sphere