Felix Gonzalez-Torres was born in 1957 in Cuba, and grew up in Puerto Rico before moving to New York City. He died of AIDS in 1996. Gonzalez-Torres had his first one-man exhibition at Andrea Rosen Gallery in 1990, where he continued to show his work until his death.The estate of Felix Gonzalez-Torres is represented by Andrea Rosen Gallery, N.Y.
His work was the focus of several major museum solo exhibitions in his lifetime and after his death. Retrospectives of his work have been organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (1995), the Sprengel Museum in Hannover, Germany (1997) and the Serpentine Gallery in London (2000) and there are currently several of Gonzalez-Torres’ works in the “Open Ends” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York through Feb 2001.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres combined the impulses of Conceptual art, Minimalism, political activism, and chance to produce a number of “democratic artworks”— including public billboards, give-away piles of candies, and
stacks of paper available to the viewer as souvenirs. These works, often sensuous and directly audience-centered, complicate the questions of public and private space, authorship, originality and the role of institutionalized meaning. He used the stuff of interior design–electric light fixtures, jigsaw puzzles, paired mirrors, wall clocks and beaded curtains–to queer exhibition spaces in the most simple and poignant ways. His primary audience, as he explained in an interview reproduced here, was his lover, Ross (who died of AIDS 6 years before his own death in 1996). Yet his work clearly appeals to a large audience for its combination of formal restraint and emotional lushness. The theme of lovers is comingled with themes of mortality, loss and absence which surface in the later work. Always charged with the sensibility of an overtly queer man, his art nonetheless often passed under the radar of the self-appointed moral guardians in both the political and art worlds. Felix Gonzales-Torres was a not-so-secret agent, able to infiltrate main stream consciousness in a most beautiful and poetic way. Activist without being didactic, a catalyst of that rare combination of sensuality and political empathy, he raised the bar on future queer art making, and continues to be one of the most influential artist of his generation.