BENTONVILLE, ARK.- Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
recently acquired Untitled (L.A.), 1991, (green candies individually wrapped in cellophane, endless supply, ideal weight: 50 pounds) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996). In Untitled (L.A.), small, green candies wrapped in cellophane are spread across the gallery floor, so that viewers may touch, take, and consume the work, which can be endlessly replenished. An unassuming and unexpected gesture, the work will debut in the galleries in the coming months.
In its use of everyday materials and simplified form, Untitled (L.A.) appropriates the minimalist approach developed by artists already included in the Crystal Bridges collection like Donald Judd and Dan Flavin, said Crystal Bridges Curator Chad Alligood. Gonzalez-Torres expanded on this vocabulary to address critical issues in the United States during the 1980s and 90s, such as the AIDS crisis, individual social responsibility, and the divide between the public and private spheres. The artist asked the public to take responsibility, to become a part of the work: this is art you can touch, take, and taste. Like many of Gonzalez-Torress works, its open-endedness incorporates the viewers interaction, both physical and conceptual, to make meaning. In its spirit of generosity, this acquisition particularly dovetails with Crystal Bridges mission to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit. And, because Untitled (L.A.) is a major work by one of the most important and influential Latino artists of the 20th century, it helps us tell an expanded story of American art.
A Cuban-born American citizen, Gonzalez-Torres moved to New York City in the early 1980s, where he became associated with the influential collaborative Group Material. Using everyday materials such as candy, lightbulbs and paper, Gonzalez-Torres merged objects of mass production with the visual restraint of conceptual art and minimalism. Outspoken in his social engagement, he often integrated his political convictions into his artistic practice. The same year he created Untitled (L.A.), Gonzalez-Torress longtime partner, Ross Laycock, died of complications from AIDS. Gonzalez-Torress candy spills have often been interpreted as metaphors for the depleted human body ravaged by illness. In that context, by providing for the endless replenishment of the candy, the artist grants the metaphorical body a kind of perpetual life. The artist himself eschewed such fixed interpretations, choosing instead to embrace open-endedness in his works, which iterate and evolve depending on their context and audience. Gonzalez-Torres died from AIDS complications in 1996. During his lifetime, the artist appeared in many important group exhibitions, including the 1991 Whitney Biennial, the 1993 Venice Biennale and the 1996 Sydney Biennale. He posthumously represented the United States at the 2007 Venice Biennale.