Stack(Ed.)

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled”, 1989, silkscreen on paper, 16 1/2 x 21 /3/4 in., published in an edition of 250 + 10 AP by the Public Art Fund, image: Andrea Rosen Gallery via FG-T Fndn

There are two paper stack works by Felix Gonzalez-Torres where every sheet in the stack is a signed, numbered edition, and the whole thing constitutes one work. You can’t take those. [Though “Untitled”, from 1991, is made up of 161 signed prints from an edition of 250 the artist made with Public Art Fund in 1989, above. The other 89 prints, plus 10 APs, are all circulating as individual works, sold (and resold) separately.]

“Untitled”, 1990, embossed paper—that’s a ring of dolphins, btw—in archival box, 8 x 14 x 14 in., ed 12+5AP, image: Brandon Wickencamp/Andrea Rosen Gallery via FG-T Fndn

There is one paper stack work that was published as an edition of stacks: 17 8-inch tall stacks of embossed paper in archival boxes. You can’t take those, either. [Unless? HMU?]

“Untitled”, 1991, light blue printed on white paper, 3 1/4 in. ideal height, 8 1/2 x 11 in sheets, the Artist Proof, selling as lot 444 at Sotheby’s on 16 Nov 2023, from the estate of Chara Scheyer

And there are two classic paper stack works, with endless supplies of paper and ideal heights, etc., that were created as editions. Which is distinct from a stack being able to exist in two or more places at once; in this case, an edition is about the number of owners, not the number of stacks. One, “Untitled” (Ross in L.A.), is an edition of three, though there’s only one out there: the de la Cruzes gave one to what’s now ICA Miami, and the Raleses gave one to the NGA.

The other is “Untitled”, above, which is an edition of 1 plus an artist proof Felix gave to Michael Jenkins, an artist, friend and collaborator. [Their two-person show together in 1991 at Xavier Hufkens in Brussels included “Untitled” (Ross in L.A.) and Felix’s text portrait frieze of Jenkins, but not the stack they made together the year before with a naked sailor on it, “Untitled” (Join), which the Rubells whip out all the time.] Anyway, Chara Scheyer bought Jenkins’ little stack a while ago, and now it’s back. If there’s a more manageable stack out there, I haven’t seen it.

How Does Sturtevant’s Candy Pour Work?

From the jump, the experience of encountering a Sturtevant is different from almost all other artworks. The moment of recognition, of loading up your assumptions and expectations of an artist’s work, of anticipating a certain kind of engagement is the same, until the instant it isn’t. Sturtevant’s work triggers a recognition, and then it thwarts it. When you realize a work is by Sturtevant, you consider how close she has gotten to the artist you thought it was by; then you start marking differences. You may also start to reflect on your upended expectations, and to question the systems that produced them.

July 2023 installation view of Sturtevant’s Gonzalez-Torres Untitled (Blue Placebo), 2004, at the Whitney, via Scott Rothkopf’s IG

And by you, I mean me. And the Sturtevant work that has been confounding me for months is Gonzalez-Torres Untitled (Blue Placebo). The 2004 sculpture is a repetition of “Untitled” (Blue Placebo), a 1991 pour of blue cellophane-wrapped candy. The Sturtevant was acquired by the Whitney Museum in 2016, and it went on view for the first time this summer in “Inheritance,” an expansive collection exhibition about legacy and lineage curated by Rujeko Hockley.

As far as I can tell, Sturtevant only made one candy pour. It was shown at least twice in the artist’s lifetime, and this is the second time since her death. How does it work? What does it do? How does a museum handle it? Is there a certificate?

Continue reading “How Does Sturtevant’s Candy Pour Work?”

Sturtevant’s “Torres Untitleds”

I’ve been thinking about the works Sturtevant made of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ works lately, and noticed this spread in the catalogue for her 2004 exhibition at the MMK Frankfurt. It’s called a catalogue raisonné, but maybe that was to subvert the idea of a catalogue raisonné. This notebook page feels a little more reliable, and yet.

It’s not clear when this was written, but the continuity of the pen makes me think it was after 1997, when her (Blood) bead curtain was shown at Ropac. Some of the artist’s notebook pages reproduced contain sketches, as if the work was not realized yet. This page, neatly laying out two works, feels like a transcription from other, less formalized sources. A lot of the objects’ details have been worked out, and this is how future exhibitions and sales will be recorded. A CR in progress.

A lot of details, but not all. It’s interesting to see what Sturtevant needs to repeat, and what she does not. Here, for example, she was still working through the titles. Here these works are called “Torres Untitled” (Something in parentheses, whether it’s Go-Go ^Dancing Platform or Blood). As it happens, I’d just been reading Tino Sehgal and Andrea Rosen’s conversation in the Specific Objects Without Specific Form exhibition catalogue, and Andrea spoke at length about the specificity of Felix’s “Untitled in Quote” (Something in parentheses) title format. Sturtevant seems to have considered it, maybe even used it for a while, before going with her own format: Gonzalez-Torres Untitled (Go-Go Dancing Platform).

And “1994-95.” [FWIW, this was published as 1995 in 2004.] I don’t know how it only just occurred to me that Sturtevant was making these works while they were being shown in Gonzalez-Torres’ retrospective at the Hirshhorn, MOCA, and Guggenheim.

[Morning after UPDATE: That e-flux link discusses how “Untitled” (Blood) was shown at the Hirshhorn in 1994, but I wonder if it’s more relevant that it was also shown in Paris, where Sturtevant lived, at the Musée d’Art Moderne, in 1995-96. The go-go dancing platform was most definitely not shown at the Hirshhorn, though it’d be wild to imagine Jesse Helms busting in on it seconds after the dancer left. Interestingly, artist Pierre Bal-Blanc, who made a #GRWM work about being a dancer on the platform in 1992, said in 2020 that he discussed it and performance with Sturtevant in 1992. Ofc, thanks to Bruce Hainley’s digging, it was long known by 2020 that Sturtevant did performance work in the 1960s, and specifically dance, so it’d be interesting to know more of what Sturtevant said about it in 1992.]

“Untitled” (USA Today)

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (USA Today), 1990, detail image from a 2011 installation at the MMK Frankfurt, FG-T Foundation via Jewish Museum

Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled” (USA Today) was included in Take Me (I’m Yours), an exhibition of participatory artworks, which opened at the Jewish Museum in New York in September 2016. The show was first conceived by Hans Ulrich Obrist in 1995 in particular reference to Gonzalez-Torres’ work. HUO was joined by Jens Hoffman and Kelly Taxter at the Jewish Museum in organizing the expanded view.

I opted for the image above because it feels like it could be from anywhere, but it is from Specific Objects Without Specific Form, a three-venue, 2011 exhibition of Gonzalez-Torres’ work organized by Elena Filipovic in 2010-2011. Filipovic included the work at Wiels in Brussels and at MMK Frankfurt in 2011. When the show was reconfigured by the artist co-curators at each venue, Danh Vo and Tino Sehgal, respectively, the work was removed, swapped out with another candy piece owned by MoMA, “Untitled” (Placebo), 1991. The extensive catalogue for the show was published in 2016.

The parenthetical in the title, USA Today, was originally a reference to a brightly colored newspaper with nationwide circulation, which you’d have to step over every morning on your way out of your mid-range hotel room. The artist once told Bob Nickas the piece referenced the “sugar rush” of patriotism. Obviously, I chose it for the color and everything else.

Lost In Translation: Christopher Wool Stack

Lot 617: Christopher Wool, Untitled (The show is over), 1993 [sic sic sic], via jvv-berlin.de

While we were all focused on the Ellsworth Kelly centenary, we missed the five-year anniversary of the question, “Why are people buying free Félix Gonzálex-Torres posters?”

Which an auction house in Berlin just celebrated by asking, “Félix who?”

A poster from “Untitled,” 1993, the endless stack of free posters Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Christopher Wool first made for Printed Matter as a fundraising edition [!] is being sold a “Poster for an exhibition” and an “offset print” from “a so-called ‘Stack’-work” by Christopher Wool. It would be, I believe, Wool’s first and only Stack-work.

Das Poster für die Ausstellung "Printed Matter" in New York als sogenannte "Stack"-Arbeit geschaffen. Hierfür wurde der Druck in einer unbekannten Auflagenhöhe erstellt und lag auf einem Stapel in den Ausstellungsräumen aus. Wool versucht durch den Text eine Kommunikation mit dem Betrachter aufzubauen, Wortbilder zu erschaffen. Er stellt die Fragen aber nicht nur dem Betrachter, sondern auch sich selbst und lässt damit die Außenwelt an seinen Gedanken teilhaben.
sogenannte “Stack”-Arbeit, hmm?

Gonzalez-Torres’ stack piece made with an image of Wool’s painting is, of course, in the Sammlung Hoffmann in Mitte. So if you lose the auction, maybe just head into town one weekend and pick up an uncreased copy.

[Lol also: Not Gagosian Shop selling this poster for $1500. Also Joshua Smith reminding us all that Larry got his start selling posters on the street, so shout out to the OG, I guess.]

Which, now I have my next project:

23 Jun 2023, Lot 617 Christopher Wool. Untitled (The show is over). … [jvv-berlin.de]

No Title, Felix Gonzalez-Torres

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, No Title, 1989, offset print on pale blue? paper, framed, image via Doyle

Red Canoe 1987 Paris 1985 Harry the Dog 1983 Blue Lake 1987 Interferon 1989 Ross 1984

We’ve been here before. As a diptych stack by the artist once endlessly put it, “Somewhere better than this place/ Nowhere better than this place”.

Doyle is offering a work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres that threads every conceptual needle. It is an edition. From an endlessly replenished stack. It’s in the catalogue raisonée, but not as a work.

Continue reading “No Title, Felix Gonzalez-Torres”

Untitled (Additional Material), 2021

a rendering of Untitled (Additional Material) based on a photo by Peter Muscato of Felix Gonzalez-Torres' Untitled (Veterans Day Sale), 1989
Untitled (Additional Material), 2021, study, 0ffset print on paper (endless copies)
20″ (ideal height) x 23″ x 29″, base image: FG-T Fndn

I’m as surprised as anyone that it was only when I finished posting about the orphaned appendices in the Felix Gonzalez-Torres catalogue raisonée that I figured out what to do with them.

I do still think that the Foundation should republish the information about the dozens of works Gonzalez-Torres made, and showed, and sent out into the world, which were later declared to be non-works.

Untitled (Additional Material), 2021, (detail) 0ffset print on paper (endless copies)
20″ (ideal height) x 23″ x 29″

By laying out the eight pages of the CR’s two appendices, Untitled (Additional Material) appropriates the strategy of the iconic stack, “Untitled” (Death by Gun), which reproduces entire pages from a special issue of Time magazine showing the people killed in the US by guns during one week.

The dimensions, meanwhile are a nod to one of two pieces that ended up classified as Non-Works: a 1990 collaboration with Donald Moffett called, “Untitled” (I Spoke With Your God). The stack of printed text by Moffett on red paper (“I SPOKE WITH YOUR GOD/ HE COMMANDED ME TO CUT OUT YOUR MOUTH”) appeared just once, in a two-person show at the University of British Columbia Arts Center in Vancouver. [The print size, 29×23 inches, is one Gonzalez-Torres used in other stacks, too, including “Untitled” (Veterans Day Sale), 1989, the image of which was used above for a rendering of the piece. I did not print 20 inches worth of giant bootleg posters today.]

The stack by Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Donald Moffett formerly known as “Untitled” (I Spoke To Your God), 1990, image: Scott Watson via Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation

As it turns out, this Non-Work does have a Foundation webpage, complete with installation shots. It does not appear to be linked from anywhere, and the URL now ends in “-hidden.” I am in awe all over again.

Previously, related: finally, the stack as medium

Soft-Core: On Additional Material and Non-Work

Untitled photo by Felix Gonzalez-Torres in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, listed as not art in the catalogue raisonée.

[THERE’S AN UPDATE: READ ON, THINGS ARE BETTER THAN I WOUND MYSELF UP TO THINKING.]

The earliest work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection is also the smallest. It is untitled, an instant black & white photo of the sea through a Cuban fence. It’s about 2.75 inches square. It is signed and dated 1985, and has a fragment of a magazine collaged on the back that reads, “THE BO–/ ANYMORE.” By the time it was acquired at the end of 1996, the year of the artist’s death, the Met had already acquired two similar sets of photos by Gonzalez-Torres: photogravures of sand, and cloudscapes. Similar, but different: this one is not an artwork. “Although made, signed, and dated by the photographer,” the catalogue entry reads, “Gonzalez-Torres thought of works such as this [photo] as lying outside his core oeuvre.”

Published in 1997, just in time to record the Met’s acquisition, the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Catalogue Raisonée has three categories: Works, Additional Material, and Registered Non-Works. The photo above is in the second category. When the CR was released, Gonzalez-Torres was the most important artist in the world to me, and I wanted more of his works, not fewer. I was upset for these somehow downgraded works, and for the sleights they faced in the discourse, the gallery, the market. I couldn’t accept that the same artist who’d shown me that the most remarkable things could be art–a pile of candy, a stack of paper, a jigsaw puzzle, a pair of clocks–also said they couldn’t be.

My incredulity over Felix’s work fueled a years-long contest with the declarative process, what artists called objects, what they kept, what they destroyed. It helped me keep an eye out for these marginalized–and invisible, since there weren’t even any pictures–works. But even as I developed more nuanced appreciations of [other] artists’ agency, these non-art designations still gnawed at me. Until the other night, when I started writing this. It’s been almost 25 years: what’s going on?

Continue reading “Soft-Core: On Additional Material and Non-Work”

Forbidden Colors, By Felix Gonzalez-Torres

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Forbidden Colors, 1988, acrylic on panel, 20×16 in. each, collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Felix Gonzalez-Torres actually made a lot of paintings. Most are Bloodworks paintings, gesso and graphite grids bisected by a diagonal line, referring to a doomed medical readout.

But in 1988 he also made Forbidden Colors, four 16×20-in acrylic monochromes in white, green, red and black. He showed the piece, along with four framed photostats, in a project installation at The New Museum, 25 years ago right now.

The paintings are now owned by MOCA. The text Felix wrote for the show is below [reproduced in Julie Ault’s 2008 Felix monograph, via fernandocestari]:

INSTALLATION BY FÉLIX GONZÁLEZ-TORRES September 16 – November 20, 1988
When I was asked to write a short statement about the work in this space I thought it would be a good opportunity to disclose and, in a certain sense, to demystify my approach. I hope that it will guide the viewer and will allow an active participation in the unravelling of the meaning and the purpose of this work. Many may consider this text redundant; and unnecessary intrusion, or even a handicap. It is assumed that the work must “speak for itself,” as if the divine dogma of modernism were able to deliver a clear and universal message to a uniform “family of man.” Others know this is not true that each of us perceives things according to who and how we are at particular junctures, whose terms are always shifting. Preferably the exhibition gallery will function as an educational device, simple and basic, without the mysteries of the muse, reactivating history to affirm our place in this landscape of 1988.
This work is mostly personal. It is about those very early hours in the morning, while still half asleep, when I tend to visualize information, to see panoramas in which the fictional, the important, the banal, and the historical are collapsed into a single caption. Leaving me anxious and responsible to anchor a logical accompanying image scanning the TV channels trying to sort out and match sound and sight. This work is about my exclusion from the circle of power where social and cultural values are elaborated and about my rejection of the imposed and established order.
It is a fact people are discriminated against for being HIV positive. It is a fact the majority of the Nazi industrialists retained their wealth after war. It is a fact the night belongs to Michelob and Coke is real. It is a fact the color of your skin matters. It is a fact Crazy Eddie’s prices are insane. It is a fact that four colors red, black, green and white placed next to each other in any form are strictly forbidden by the Israeli army in the occupied Palestinian territories. This color combination can cause an arrest, a beating, a curfew, a shooting, or a news photograph. Yet it is a fact that these forbidden colors, presented as a solitary act of consciousness here in SoHo, will not precipitate a similar reaction.
From the first moment of encounter, the four colour canvases in this room will “speak” to everyone. Some will define them as an exercise in color theory, or some sort of abstraction. Some as four boring rectangular canvases hanging on the wall. Now that you’ve read this text, I hope for a different message.
For all the PWAs.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Forbidden Colors in person. It was in a group show at White Columns in 1993, and MOCA showed it once in 2002. That’s it. I’ve noticed it in the catalogue raisonne, of course, though without really paying the piece much attention. Really, I didn’t understand the reference. And the photo didn’t really reproduce the green panel; it looked black.

UPDATE Thanks to petitemaoiste, who just tweeted that the piece was also included in John Farmer’s 1995 collection show, “The Compulsion to Repeat.”
It’s interesting, though, how you notice things, or take notice of them, when your own frame of reference changes.

The ban on the Palestinian flag, its colors, and any “artwork of ‘political significance'” was lifted in 1993 as part of the Oslo Peace Accords.

[December 2023 UPDATE: In 2021 in response to Israeli violence against Palestinians, I made a replicable version, Gonzalez-Torres’ Forbidden Colors, and offered it to any institution who wanted to show but could not borrow the original. Also, the original was included in the 2023 Carnegie International. Meanwhile, it is a new fact that Israel, Germany, the UK, and places in the US, among others, are actually banning display of the colors of the Palestinian flag, part of an attempt to silence protest of the ongoing genocide in Gaza and attacks in the occupied West Bank.]