Occupation: Sculpture, Installation Art, Photography
Movement: Minimalism, Conceptual Art
“Dateline” series, 1987
“Untitled (Veterans Day Sale,” 1989
“Untitled (Placebo),” 1991
“Untitled (Perfect Lovers),” 1991
“Untitled (Portrait of Marcel Brient),” 1992
The Cuban-American artist Félix González-Torres became famous for his Minimalist style, in the realms of both sculpture as well as installation art.
Early Years and Education
Born in Guáimaro in Cuba, Félix González-Torres was the third of altogether four siblings born to his parents. He began developing an interest in art after being given a watercolor set at the age of seven. Along with his sister, he was sent to live in Spain in 1971, where they lived in an orphanage in Madrid for a short while before being sent to Puerto Rico to live with a relation.
He was sent to school at the Colegio San Jorge, and after finishing his studies, enrolled at the University in Puerto Rico in 1976. It was during these years that he became involved with the art scene in the country, eventually deciding to become an artist. He won a scholarship to study in New York in 1979, and this resulted in him being awarded the Whitney Independent Study Program the following year.
Beginnings in Art
González-Torres rejoined the Whitney Independent Study Program a second time in 1983, while concurrently studying at the Pratt institute of Art, from where he received his BFA the same year in the field of photography. He made his way to Europe in 1987, and studied in Venice for a while before returning to the States for his MFA the following year from the International Center of Photography at the New York University.
Along with Julie Ault and Doug Ashford, González-Torres founded the Group Material, a collaboration between artists in New York. They held a number of politically charged exhibitions that concerned themselves with current issues as well as more abstract ideas of the relationship between art, its creator, and the audience. It was during these years that he began creating his series, “Dateline,” which included “Untitled (Portrait of Jennifer Flay).”
Life and Work
González-Torres was gay, and met his partner Ross Laycock in 1986. They moved to Los Angeles in 1990, but Ross died of AIDS the next year, and his father died shortly after, resulting in a period of depression and introspection for the artist.
It was during this period that González-Torres began making real money off his work, and could finally stop working at odd jobs to support himself. He had begun making installation art now, and “Untitled (Placebo)” was a piece consisting of a carpet of candy wrapped in shiny paper. Viewers were expected to take candy from it, thereby changing the work as it slowly disappeared over the course of the exhibition.
In 1989 he had created “Untitled (Memorial Day Weekend),” which consisted of stacks of paper, each page containing details of his personal life that the audience was free to peruse. He had made it a practice to call almost all his works “Untitled.”
The Last Years
In 1993 González-Torres had two simultaneous exhibitions in Paris, in which the audience was again invited to go through and even take the small booklets of printed material that had been arranged in the room.
González-Torres’s work was by now well known, and galleries and museums around the world regularly held exhibitions of his work. However, he had contracted AIDS, and died in 1996 from problems arising from it.
1957 - Born in Guáimaro
1971 - Moves to Spain and then Puerto Rico
1976 - Joins the Art Department at the University of Puerto Rico
1979 - Moves to New York to study at the Pratt Institute of Art
1983 - Meets his longtime partner Ross Laycock
1987 - Receives his MFA from the International Center of Photography, New York
1991 - Ross dies of AIDS
1996 - Dies of AIDS in Miami
1997 - Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
1998 - Comme des Garçons, Tokyo
1999 - Galerie Klosterfelde, Berlin
2000 - Serpentine Gallery, London
2001 - Palazzo delle Papesse Centro Arte Contemporanea, Siena
2002 - Astrup Fearnley Museet fur Moderne Kunst, Oslo
2005 - Museo de Arte Contemporanéo de Castilla y Léon, Léon
2006 - Kunstmuseum Bern
2006 - El Museo del Barrio, New York
Art Institute of Chicago
Guggenheim Museum, New York
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Whitney Museum of Art, New York
Astrup Fearnley Museet fur Moderne Kunst, Oslo
Goetz Collection, Munich
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
“Symptoms of Interference, Conditions of Possibility,” by Ad Reinhardt and Joseph Kosuth
“Félix González-Torres,” by Amanda Cruz
“Pour Félix,” by Nancy Spector
“Félix González-Torres,” by Anthony Calnek
“Félix González-Torres,” by Julie Ault