Alongside the enforcement of neoliberalism, numerous social and economic shifts happening on a global scale, the early 1980s are marked by the AIDS crisis and the homophobia that followed. The male gay community in the United States got hit the hardest, as people were dying so rapidly that the entire LGBTQ community and their allies engaged enormous efforts to spread awareness, and obtain funds for further medical researches and therapy.
Among the deceased ones were numerous artists who boldly stepped out of the closet in order to confront the public eye and claim their basic human rights. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, who died of AIDS complications in 1996, was an exceptional figure known for minimalistic installations through which he addressed different issues regarding his queerness, but also the feeling of abandonment, isolation, and even colonialism.
To pay homage to one of the most prolific artists of his generation, MACBA in Barcelona is about to present a significant solo exhibition titled Felix Gonzalez-Torres: The Politics of Relation.
The survey curated by Tanya Barson will position Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ work in regards to the postcolonial discourse and the themes of memory, authority, freedom, and national identity that define the contemporary moment at large.
Namely, Gonzalez-Torres was born in Cuba, then sent to Madrid together with his sister in 1970; the siblings settled in Puerto Rico, but the artist eventually moved to New York to continue his studies. The exile infused his work with the shifting nature of his identity and a general disability to belong (as a migrant and a queer man), something that is best expressed through the way he juxtaposed language and images.
For that reason, the MACBA exhibition will focus on the contextualization of Gonzalez-Torres’s work in relation to Spanish, Latin American, and Caribbean culture, while underlining different layers of his oeuvre and highlighting its formative influence on queer aesthetics.
The Politics of Relation will consist of four thematic rooms that cover the most important aspect of Gonzalez-Torres’ work, with the addition of interventions taking place beyond the museum making in total the five ‘chapters’ of the exhibition.
The first room will feature a selection of works that critically address the concepts such as authority, judgment, and memory (including numerous references to authoritarian or establishment culture, fascism, and social conservatism, and the repression of the gay community and homophobia).
The second room will showcase the works reflecting the ideas of touching, coupling, doubling, and sameness, while the third room will be organized around some of the artist’s most existentially oriented, but equally political works that address themes of travel, emigration, exile, tourism, and escape/freedom.
The final exhibition room will highlight Gonzalez-Torres’ observation of the ideas of militarism, patriotism, masculinity, and homoerotic desire.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres: The Politics of Relation will be on display at MACBA in Barcelona from 26 March until 12 September 2021.
Featured image: Felix Gonzalez-Torres - “Untitled” (Perfect Lovers), 1987-1990. Walls clocks. Edition of 3, 1 AP. 13 1/2 inches each. © Felix Gonzalez-Torres, courtesy of the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation. All images courtesy MACBA.