Printed art by Félix González-Torres stands in bold contrast to the etchings, woodcuts, lithographs, and screenprints that make up the traditional history of modern print-making. González-Torres did not pursue this medium for the expressive possibilities inherent in its various techniques but, instead, chose it for its ability to function within his broader conceptual practice. The commercial offset process (photolithography) offered him a vehicle that was easy and inexpensive to produce, and also endlessly replicable. The fact that its surfaces maintained the detached, second-generation appearance of his often grainy photographic sources was a feature that suited his message of ephemerality rather than permanence.
Stacks of printed paper, in the form of sculptural objects with Minimalist overtones, constitute a major component of González-Torres's work, which also encompasses such projects as installations of wrapped candy, hanging cords of lightbulbs, and beaded curtains. His printed art extended as well to billboards, give-away booklets, and newspaper inserts, often incorporating his own or found photographs. A gentle, poetic mood emanates from much of this art, suggesting poignant memories or provoking thoughtful consideration of social issues.
While González-Torres dealt with gay rights, AIDS, and a variety of governmental abuses in his own work and as a member of the collective Group Material, the subject of "Untitled" (Death by Gun), and its treatment, is unusually specific for him. Appropriating imagery from Time magazine, it presents 460 individuals killed by gunshot in one week in the United States, and includes the name, age, and circumstances of death for each person depicted. No opinion about gun control is added by the artist. Here an issue of public debate engages anyone who follows the artist's intention and takes away one of his sheets. Dissemination, an age-old function of printed art, is ongoing since "Untitled" (Death by Gun) is reprinted as the stack is depleted.
from Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 245
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