Felix Gonzalez-Torres


The Everyday Art of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, essay by David Deitcher, Canadian Art Critic and Writer

Exhibition catalogue no 10
No of pages:
32, black-and-white, illustrated
soft cover

Language: Swedish and English
Year: 1992
Publisher: Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall

Available for purchase in our museum entrance for 300 SEK (approx. 30 EUR)


The Everyday Art of Felix Gonzalez-Torres by David Deitcher

The French geographer Henri Lefebvre once observed that in modern industrialized societies the “everyday” is dominated by two kinds of repetition: ”linear” repetition, which adheres to the supposedly rational processes of commercial production; and “cyclical” repetition, which dominates in nature, and includes “nights and days, seasons and harvests, activity and rest, hunger and satisfaction, desire and its fulfillment, life and death”. Minimalists such as Carl Andre, Donald Judd and Dan Flavin made art from industrially manufactured commercial objects that they organized in serial configurations (akin to Judd’s familiar dictum: “one thing after another”). In this way they created a monumental art, remote from European-derived aesthetic traditions, that forcefully expressed the mechanical, linear structures that, according to Lefebvre, “mask and crush” the more differentiated, cyclical patterns of organic life. Felix Gonzalez-Torres – every bit as dependent as Minimalists on commercially manufactured units (i.e., clocks, mirrors, jigsaw puzzles, light fixtures, stacks of paper, candy, etc.) – has nonetheless used them to create works that communicate the greater complexity of everyday life as it is lived: at the intersection of both linear and cyclical structures.

Since the mid-1980s, Gonzalez-Torres has sustained a critical dialogue with Minimalist, as well as with Process and Conceptual art.

In “Untitled” (Public Opinion) (1991), he arranged thousands of individually wrapped, identical black licorice candies into a square, carpet-like sculptural installation. Formally and conceptually, this work recalled the carpets of fire bricks and metal plates that Andre has created since the second half of the 1960s. Since 1989, Gonzalez-Torres has created variations on the theme of the “stack,” which consists of “unlimited” editions of offset prints. Exhibited directly on the floor where these works take on a low sculptural volume, their evocation of the most commonplace Minimalist form – the box – depends upon an additive, Minimalist gesture.

But while Minimalists used commercially manufactured units to emphasize their obdurate materiality, Gonzalez-Torres has used everyday objects in ways that can confound one’s understanding of their communicative potential. “Untitled” (Public Opinion) is therefore more than a 700-pound carpet of individually wrapped, black licorice candies. In the immensity of its numbers, and dark intimation of menace, it symbolizes how dangerous the angry, undereducated, and anything but “silent” majority is. Its seductiveness parallels the appeal to public opinion polls, which in American society are less effective as a means of reflecting consensus than of constructing it. (…)