January 30 – July 9, 2023
“Untitled” (Blue Placebo) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres (American, born in Cuba, 1957–1996) is one of twenty candy works he produced between 1990 and 1993. The artist left flexible installation guidelines: for instance, the borrower can decide how to source and arrange the candy, and visitors are permitted to take one sweet (in this case, enclosed in blue wrappers). During the course of its time at the Mead, “Untitled” (Blue Placebo) will change locations and take new shape. Acknowledging the contingency of his work, Gonzalez-Torres said in a 1993 interview that “forms gather meaning from their historical moment.” This suggests that works of art “gather meaning” both from the context in which they were first made and also from the subsequent contexts in which they are displayed.
In Spring 2023, Niko Vicario, Assistant Professor of Art and the History of Art at Amherst College, will teach a seminar that asks a series of questions of this artwork: How does “Untitled” (Blue Placebo) relate to the historical moment in which it was conceived, including that early phase of the AIDS epidemic, and how does it relate to the present? What is the role of participation in contemporary art and in what ways can art move beyond sight to engage other senses? What role do an artist’s identities play in shaping how we interpret the work they make? What is the dynamic between an artist’s intention, a museum’s installation of a work, and the public’s experience of it? Who does art belong to and who determines its significance?
1. Gonzalez-Torres, Felix and Tim Rollins. "Interview by Tim Rollins." Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Edited by Bill Bartman. New York: Art Resources Transfer, Inc., 1993: 5 – 31