The Rockbund Art Museum is honored to present the first solo exhibition of the influential international artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996) in Greater China. From September 30th to December 25th, 2016, RAM will host a comprehensive exhibition of work by the late American artist, who is renowned for his unconventional methodology and poignant sensitivity. The unique nature of his work takes this exhibition beyond a retrospective; it constitutes a genuine renewal of his art.
Selected from 30 institutions and collections across the world, the exhibition includes over 40 pieces, spanning from 1987 to 1995, invites audiences to contemplate issues, both public and private, that are still relevant today. Throughout his work, the tension between the public and private, the shared and the personal, comprises a recurrent theme for Gonzalez-Torres. Many of the artist’s works consist of everyday objects, such as strings of light bulbs, mirrors, wall clocks or printed sheets of paper. Other works are comprised of spills of candy , mirrors, and jigsaw puzzles. His artwork itself is like a puzzle, but lacking a univocal order. Its demure minimal aesthetic solicits the audience to put the pieces together for themselves, inviting a plurality of pictures to emerge.
One of the most intriguing aspects of this exhibition is the dramatic shift in the historical and cultural context of the artworks as they travel to Shanghai. Much of Gonzalez-Torres’ work allows the environment to challenge and alter its aesthetic. By staging the exhibition in contemporary China, it will open up the artist’s work to a new context, as a 21st century Chinese public confronts its message for the first time. It is well known that Gonzalez-Torres produced his work in the 80's and 90's in an American society and art community profoundly affected by the AIDS epidemic. However, it would be a mistake to engage with his work as simply dealing with homosexual issues or the AIDS crisis. These issues represent that circumstances under which the work were made and can be understood as platforms for exploring human values, relationships and aspirations at large, both in the artist and in the viewer.
Audiences in China may readily recognize a postmodern symptomatology in the artworks on show; a presentation for an age of information where social media, television and the internet fragment identities and abrogate local bonds. By the late 1990’s, the Chinese art community had already recognized the value of Gonzalez-Torres’ contribution in the domain of identity politics. His peculiarly subtle way of navigating this sphere served as a model for many. Yet, sometimes this dimension of his artwork dominated its appreciation, obfuscating some of its more pliable and generalizable aspects.
Broad social themes resonate throughout the exhibition including: the conditions of large-scale production, dominant discourses, minority representation, or the loss of personality in the currents of postindustrial society. Equally the experience of loss, of love, the uncanny passage of time, or the hopeful quality of play— the very conditions of life—can also be found in this artist’s extraordinary array of work.
20 years since his passing, RAM is able to present the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres afresh, moving beyond the labels that once constrained its definition. Its uniquely interactive nature entails that meaning is not only discovered, but also contributed by its audience. This reciprocity is what makes Gonzalez-Torres both an artist of the polity, and in the end altogether intimate. Quirky and opaque, sharp and humorous: the pieces presented in this forthcoming exhibition will incite introspection just as they draw its audiences together.
Rockbund Art Museum would like to thank the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation and the many institutions that graciously loaned their pieces, both for their generous help and their assistance in bringing this exhibition into realization.