Felix Gonzalez-Torres

Installation view
Installation view of "America", Mittlere Brücke Basel
Installation view
Installation view
Felix Gonzalez-Torres « Specific Objects without Specific Form » May 22 – August 29, 2010

The Fondation Beyeler hosts part of a major traveling retrospective of Cuban-born American artist, Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957– 1996), one of the most influential figures of his generation. Including both rarely seen and more widely known paintings, sculptures, photographic works, and public projects drawn from public and private collections throughout the United States and Europe, this groundbreaking exhibition proposes an experimental form that is indebted to the artist’s own radical conception of the work of art. At the Fondation Beyeler, two different installments of the exhibition will be on view: the first version will, from July 31 onward, be re-interpreted and partially re-hung by artist Carol Bove.

The exhibition reflects the short but prolific career of Gonzalez-Torres, who settled in New York in the late 1970s, where he studied photography and went on to practice as an artist before his untimely death of AIDS-related complications in 1996, at the age of thirty-eight. In a relatively short time he developed a profoundly influential body of work that can be seen in critical relationship to Conceptual Art and Minimalism. He mixed political critique, emotional effect, and deep formal concerns in a wide range of media, including drawings, photography, sculpture, and public billboards, often using ordinary objects as a starting point—clocks, mirrors, beaded curtains, jigsaw puzzles, or light bulbs.

At the Fondation Beyeler, the exhibition is inspired by the artist’s own unconventional way of thinking about the object and its display, and is not strictly confined to the exhibition space: it begins in the institution’s entrance hallway, occupies the foyer, and is interspersed throughout its permanent collection as well as the lower galleries and public spaces. As a result, visitors experience Gonzalez-Torres’s art between, above, and around works in the Beyeler Collection, presented here in much the way the artist himself often showed them, that is, positioned in marginal and unexpected locations. It is precisely in these juxtapositions that the viewer best understands the radicalism of Gonzalez-Torres’s oeuvre: in the context of such galleries, which contain many of Modernism’s most critically-acclaimed masterpieces, the willed evanescence and mutability of Gonzalez-Torres’s paper stacks or candy piles, the fragile coherence of his puzzles, and the sensual corporeality and everyday materiality of his beaded curtains or light strings, each, in their own way, respond to and differentiate themselves from the functioning of traditional painting and sculpture.