Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996) was a Cuban artist who grew up in Puerto Rico before moving to New York City. Gonzalez-Torres had his first one-man exhibition at Andrea Rosen Gallery in 1990, where he continued to show his work until his death of AIDS related complications. 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).
Gonzalez-Torres was known for his quiet, minimal installations and sculptures. Using materials such as strings of lightbulbs, clocks, stacks of paper, or packaged hard candies, Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s work is sometimes considered a reflection of his experience with AIDS. Many of Gonzalez-Torres’s installations invite the viewer to take a piece of the work with them: a series of works allow viewers to take packaged candies from a pile in the corner of an exhibition space, while another series is comprised of stacks of ultrathin sheets of clear plastic or unlimited edition prints, also free for the viewer to take. These installations are replenished by the exhibitor as they diminish. The most pervasive reading of Gonzalez-Torres’s work takes the processes his works undergo (lightbulbs expiring, piles of candies dispersing, etc.) as metaphor for the process of dying. One of his most recognizable works, Untitled(1992) is a billboard put up in New York City of a monochrome photograph of an unoccupied bed, made after the death of his lover, Ross, to AIDS.
In one interview, he said “When people ask me, ‘Who is your public?’ I say honestly, without skipping a beat, ‘Ross.’ The public was Ross. The rest of the people just come to the work.”