Death And Venice

Felix Gonzalez-Torres: “All art and all cultural production is political.”
The NY Times report on the inclusion of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ works in US Pavilion next year in Venice gives more information on what was included in the Guggenheim’s proposal. Here is what the pieces soud like to me, starting with the “never before realized” work, which will be installed in the entrance courtyard of the pavilion:

  • “two adjoining reflecting pools forming a figure eight, the sign of infinity” sounds like a pool version of, Untitled (March 5th), 1991, which is two round mirrors, side by side. The LA Times has more specifics, saying the 12′-diameter pools will be “based on 1992 drawings and notes submitted by the artist for the piece, originally intended for the campus of Western Washington University.” Curator Nancy Spector is probably one of only a handful of people who can pull off saying “As someone who is familiar with his sensibility, I like to think I would able to approximate what he wanted to do,” but still.
  • ” his largest light string,” refers to Untitled (North), 1993, a 12-string piece on permanent loan at Bard Untitled (America), a 12-string piece in the Whitney’s collection.
  • “a suite of 12 framed black-and-white photographs, an inventory of idealized men,” is probably Untitled (Natural History), a work which refers, not to twelve men, but to twelve descriptions of Theodore Roosevelt inscribed on the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History.
  • “a large paper stack from 1992” is the most intriguing. There are only four stacks dated from 1992. At first, I thought it was a tossup between Untitled, 1992/1993, which features a bird in the sky, a classic Felix image, but really, it’s only slightly larger than the other two. And besides, the date’s unique enough it would have been mentioned. Which means the other piece is the black-bordered one above, which is significantly larger than the rest.
    Like that “figure eight = infinity” bit, Carol Vogel provided cleanly didactic interpretations of Felix’s symbolism: “stacks of replenishable paper to represent the inevitability of death, strings of lights to represent dreams of a better world.” So it’s odd that a presumably easy-to-read “symbol” like a black border–which, on stationery and signage, has long signified a house in mourning–didn’t get a mention. Nor did the title: Untitled (Republican Years).