It’s quite hard for me to find one defining image that sums up the effortless elegance, the grace, the puresadnessof Flex Gonzalez-Torres’ work. Gonzalez-Torres has been hailed and celebrated, Nicolas Bourriaud even devoting the majority of a chapter inRelational Aestheticsto him. It’s easy to understand why: his work opens a door for people, it blurs the boundary between art and appreciator.
Gonzalez-Torres’ work often referenced his own life. The above work, Portrait of Ross in LA, is a perfect example. When Gonzalez-Torres’ partner, Ross Laycock, was diagnosed with AIDS, the doctors told him his ideal body weight was 175 pounds - a figure which corresponded perfectly to the weight of candy put into the gallery. The artist invited the audience to take a piece, performing a dual function. The audience unwittingly played into the destruction of the art - forcing them to consider their role in the creation of the piece versus the responsibility of ensuring the work is not completely consumed - but they also helped to create a poignant, striking metaphor for the weight loss that accompanied Ross’ deteriorating health.
His work also referenced the less painful side of love. His imagery was full of two perfectly identical objects - two clocks, stopped at the same time, two pillows rumpled in the same fashion. These fly in the face of the traditional heterogeneous nature of romantic art, which generally portrays two opposite elements, two genders. His work celebrated being thesame, not forcing two similar things to adopt distinct, closed roles. Gonzales-Torres was unafraid to throw open the door to his life and show the deeply personal, in a fashion which allowed those from all walks of life to relate to it.
Click through on the image for a link to Gonzalez-Torres’ page on the Queer Cultural Centre website.