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White Gray Black

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

American sculptor and photographer of Cuban birth. He moved in 1979 to New York, where he completed a BFA in photography at the Pratt Institute (1983) and an MFA at the International Center of Photography, New York University (1987), as well as enrolling in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. In 1987 he joined Group Material, a New York-based group of artists whose intention was to work collaboratively, adhering to principles of cultural activism and community education. His own engagement as a gay man with socio-political issues, as well as his exploration of the way in which politics can infiltrate personal life, forms the background to his work, centred around the interaction of public and private spheres. In 1989 he presented his first stacked-paper work, Untitled (Memorial Day Weekend) and Untitled (Veterans Day Sale), exhibited together as Untitled (Monuments) (L. and R. Plehn priv. col., see 1994 exh. cat., p. 20). This consists of two stacks of sheets measuring 29×23 in, printed with the bracketed words of the titles, neatly piled (at an ideal height of 22 in) to resemble Minimalist floor sculptures. By inviting gallery visitors to take the sheets, Gonzalez-Torres undermines Minimalist principles of social and aesthetic autonomy, suggesting that the artwork is completed by the viewers’ physical interaction with (and consumption of) the work. This strategy also criticizes the ways in which ideas are propagated through an art practice; by offering a work that depends on the projection and contemplation by its audience. His placing of personal, biographical material in the public realm was especially evident in Untitled (1991; E. and W. Dannheisser priv. col., see 1994 exh. cat., p. 17), in which he presented a black-and-white photograph (of an inviting, recently vacated double bed) on billboards in 24 locations throughout Manhattan. Although made shortly after the death of his partner, Ross Laycock, this project was characteristically open to interpretation. His ability to create sensual metaphor for private life in public can be seen with Untitled (Perfect Lovers) (1991; Dannheisser Found., see 1994 exh. cat., p. 74), in which two synchronized clocks, of the type to be found in offices and public spaces, are displayed side by side; the implicit romanticism is tempered by the inevitable fact of one stopping before the other. In 1992 Gonzalez-Torres was granted a DAAD fellowship to work in Berlin, and in 1993 a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He died from AIDS-related causes.

John-Paul Stonard
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press


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