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Felix Gonzalez-Torres and the obsession with the number 2

by Giovanni Corzani

Félix González-Torres was a Cuban artist (1957-1996). His work has to do with the idea of the double: he works on joys, fears and everything related to the unity between two people. His inspiration was Ross, his partner, who died prematurely from AIDS. Using minimalist materials such as strands of light bulbs, piles of paper, candies, billboards, watches, he recounts his experience with the disease by transmitting a strong emotional charge.

Among his most famous works we find “Untitled,” the subtitle of which is “Portrait of Ross”. A pile of candy, which at the beginning of the day has the same weight Rossa had before his death, is placed in a corner. Generally, the works in a museum cannot be touched, but in this case, the work is activated when the viewer takes the candy. The changing of the work, like the gradual consumption of the candies, is a metaphor for the death process. His own love is wearing out, and he’s not ready to say goodbye. The public taking away the candy makes the work- the memory disappears, just as the disease consumed Ross until his death.

“Untitled” (Perfect Lovers), 1991. above: “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991.

Perfect Lovers is two watches juxtaposed to form the symbol of infinity, calibrated to the same hour. Time is the protagonist, harmony and rhythm become the backbone of love between two people. Love is synchronism, a series of events at the right time, the ticking of the hands like heartbeats. Although the two watches are the same, they are not infallible machines. When one of the two loses a beat, the rhythm is lost, losing their simultaneity, so love works. The artist defines watches as our time, telling us not to be afraid of them.

above: “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991.

Another of the most iconic works by Félix González-Torres is “The Bulbs”, strings of lights with bulbs at the end that illuminate the room. With great simplicity, they form a powerful emotional and poetic expression. The strings, like two lives, intertwine. Light bulbs give off heat, and their lifespan, like that of a person, has an expiration and will eventually run out, burning themselves out.

above: “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991.

We generally expect a photo of a bed posted on a billboard to have something to do with some mattress company. This scenario is actually in stark contrast to its public position. A year after Ross’s death, Felix rented 24 billboards in the busiest spots in New York City, printed a photo of a bed and installed it there in front of everyone, unfiltered. Two pillows are on an unmade bed, still showing the impression of the bodies. Then we discover that this is not a random photo; on the contrary, it is a bed that is not just any bed- it is in fact the bed in which the two slept, dreamed, quarreled, laughed, made love, and it is also the bed in which Ross died. The imprint left on the pillows suggests a recent presence, conveying intimacy. No one can be seen in the photo, yet we can perceive that presence. Where now we have become accustomed to films, novels, poems, songs, Felix in a single image conveys all the meaning of this feeling.

Above all else, it is about leaving a mark that I existed: I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and I had a good purpose and that’s why I made works of art. Fèlix Gonzàlez-Torres

We could define Fèlix González-Torres as a poet. What he shows us is love, and if you’ve never tried it, you can’t think of buying it. His works break up and travel to all parts of the world by chance. After having related to the work, we become part of it, becoming a backbone of his work. The disease may have stolen his partner from him, from him physically, but what remains of him on an emotional level is intact, and Ross continues to live through the work.

My name is Giovanni, and I have a strange relationship with art. This relationship is strange but beautiful, everyone says that all great artists are crazy, so maybe art is not for normal people, I don’t know. There is something that has intrigued me in this world since I was a child, and today writing about beauty, cultural changes and all the visual stimuli that surround me is one more reason to live them at 100%.

Giovanni Corzani @Instagram
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