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Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996)
Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996)

"Untitled" (Last Light)

Details
Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996)
"Untitled" (Last Light)
light bulbs, plastic light sockets, extension cord and dimmer switch
overall dimensions vary with installation
Executed in 1993. This work is number twenty-three from an edition of twenty-four plus six artist’s proofs, published by A.R.T. Press, Los Angeles and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.
Provenance
Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
Private collection
Anon. sale; Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, 10 May 2012, lot 1
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Literature
S. Dewan, "Quiet, Please," Houston Press, 3-9 October 1996, p. 45.
D. Elger, Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Catalogue Raisonné, Ostfildern-Ruit, 1997, vol. 1 p. 57; vol. 2, p. 125, no. 246 (another example illustrated).
D. Gonzalez-Foerster, et al., ed., Moment Ginza: City Guide, Stockholm, 1997, p. 1.
J. Rondeau, The Art Institute of Chicago: Museum Studies - The Lannan Collection at The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 1999, p. 84-85.
F. Sanchez, Ellipse Foundation Contemporary Art Collection, Cascais, 2006, n.p. (another example illustrated).
“Openings This Week,” Time Out, 12-18 December 2008, p. 15.
D. A. Williamson, “Now You Don’t,” Time Out, 19-25 December 2008, pp. 8-9.
“Selected New Acquisitions,” Jerusalem Magazine, Winter 2008-Spring 2009, p. 36.
"Best Bets 01.2009,” Aspen Magazine, January 2009, p. 37 (another example illustrated).
K. MacMillan, "You may 'see' it at Aspen Art Museum and still not get it," Denver Post, 23 January 2009, pp. 1D, 5D and 16D.
S. Landau, Contemporary Art in the Israel Museum. Jerusalem, 2010.
“Principales acquisitions,” La revue des musées de France Acquisitions 2009-2010, Paris, 2011, p. 88 (another example illustrated).
W. Simmons, "William Tell All: Last Light in Harvard's Sackler Museum. (10/20)," Harvard Independent, 2011.
J. Grove and O. Viso, eds., Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take, exh. cat., Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, 2013, pp. 56, 111 and 172-185 (another example illustrated).
Nuit Blanche, Paris, 5 October 2013, Paris, pp. 41 and 43 (another example illustrated).
C. Macel, ed., Une Historie. Art, architecture, design, dés annees 1980 à nos jours, Paris, 2014, pp. 124 and 127 (another example illustrated).
J. R. Wolin, ed. Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Collection of Blake Byrne, Los Angeles, 2014, pp. 21 and 54-55 (another example illustrated).
J. Canela, I Speak Knowing it's not About Speaking, Barcelona, 2015, p. 33 (another example illustrated)
S. Harris and M. Staniszewski, eds., Exit Art: Unfinished Memories: 30 Years of Exit Art, Göttingen, 2016.
J. Marks-White, "Imagine That," Westport Magazine, Westport, 2017.
A. Rounthwaite, Asking the Audience: Participatory Art in 1980s New York, Minneapolis, 2017.
Exhibited
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Portraits, Plots and Places: The Permanent Collection Revisited, January 1992-ongoing (another example exhibited).
New York, Exit Art/The First World, …it’s how you play the game, November 1994-February 1995 (another example exhibited).
New York, Betsy Senior Gallery, A.R.T. Press: Prints and Multiples, January-February 1995 (another example exhibited).
Santiago de Compostela, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Felix Gonzalez-Torres (A Possible Landscape), December 1995-March 1996 (another example exhibited).
New York, Feature, Inc., The Moderns, June-July 1995 (another example exhibited).
Cincinnati, The Contemporary Arts Center, Momento Mori, November 1996-January 1997 (another example exhibited).
Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Felix Gonzalez-Torres (Girlfriend in a Coma), April-June 1996 (another example exhibited).
Houston, Lawing Gallery, Silence, September-October 1996 (another example exhibited).
London, 148 St. John Street, Blue Horizon, May-June 1998 (another example exhibited).
Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, Proliferation, March-June 1999 (another example exhibited).
San Angel, Museo de Arte Carillo Gil, Colección Jumex, April-August 1999, pp. 14-17 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Jennifer Flay, Paris, Always Paris, November-December 2000 (another example exhibited).
Ecatepec, La Colección Jumex, Killing Time and Listening Between the Lines, March 2003-February 2004 (another example exhibited).
Art Institute of Chicago, Permanent Collection Installation, 2005 (another example exhibited).
Jerusalem, Israel Museum, Vanishing Point: Beauty in Contemporary Art, April-October 2005 (another example exhibited).
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Shadowland: An Exhibition as Film, April-September 2005 (another example exhibited).
Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, The Blake Byrne Collection, July-October 2005, pp. 17, 38 and 82 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Virginia Beach, The Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, Transformed, July-September 2008, pp. 4, 9 and 20-21 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Ecatepec, La Colección Jumex, An Unruly History of the Readymade, September 2008-March 2009, p. 114 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Cambridge, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University, Re-View: European and American Art Since 1900, September 2008-June 2013 (another example exhibited).
Cascais, Ellipse Foundation Art Centre, Listen, Darling…The World is Yours, October 2008-August 2009 (another example exhibited).
Aspen Art Museum, Now You See It, December 2008-February 2009, pp. 8-9, 58-61, 84-85 and 97 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, Collection: MOCA's First Thirty Years, November 2009-May 2010 (another example exhibited).
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Event Horizon, November 2009-August 2011 (another example exhibited).
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Absentee Landlord, June 2011-July 2012 (another example exhibited).
Sigean, Lieu D'Art Contemporain Narbonne, Playtime: Works from the Klosterfelde Collection, June-September 2011 (another example exhibited).
Art Institute of Chicago, Felix Gonzalez-Torres in the Modern Wing, July 2011-January 2012 (another example exhibited).
Philadelphia, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, An Odyssey: A Narrative of The Fabric Workshop and Museum, September-December 2012 (another example exhibited).
Paris, Nuit Blanche 2013 [White Night 2013], October 2013 (another example exhibited).
Kunstmuseum Basel, Museum für Gegenwartskunst; Lisbon, Culturgest; New York, Artists Space, Tell It To My Heart: Collected by Julie Ault, February 2013-February 2014, pp. 56, 111 and 172-185 (another example exhibited).
Los Angeles, Fahrenheit, Far and High, January-April 2014 (another example exhibited).
Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, Selections From the Permanent Collection, February 2014-ongoing (another example exhibited).
Jerusalem, Israel Museum, Unstable Places: New in Contemporary Art. June 2014-January 2015 (another example exhibited).
Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou; Munich, Haus der Kunst, A History. Art, Architecture, Design from the 1980's Until Today, July 2014-September 2016 (another example exhibited).
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Art at the Center: 75 Years of Walker Collections, October 2014-September 2016 (another example exhibited).
Barcelona, Fundació Suñol, Perfect Lovers. Art in the Time of AIDS, October 2014-January 2015, pp. 6-11 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Toronto, Scrap Metal, Somebody, Everybody, Nobody, October 2014-March 2015 (another example exhibited).
Durham, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Collection of Blake Byrne, February-July 2015 (another example exhibited).
CaixaForum Barcelona, Hablo, sabiendo que no se trata de eso (I speak, knowing it´s not about speaking), October 2015-February 2016 (another example exhibited).
Westport Arts Center, MORE Than Words, September-October 2016 (another example exhibited).
Shanghai, Rockbund Art Museum, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, September-December 2016 (another example exhibited).
Los Angeles, Regen Projects, What I Loved: Selected Works from the 1990s, March-April 2017 (another example exhibited).

Lot Essay

Felix Gonzalez-Torres has emerged as one of the most influential artists of the 1990s for his seemingly simple, yet conceptually sophisticated works that continuously evolve and remain open-ended. In “Untitled” (Last Light), an example of his well-known and elegant series of light string works, 24 illuminated white light bulbs produce a softly glowing aura. When the work is exhibited with the bulbs switched on, they radiate the tangible warmth of a softly burning candle; the string of bulbs infuses the pristine atmosphere of the gallery space with a delicate radiance. While the life cycle of each bulb is finite, the artist intended for the bulbs to be replaced promptly as they burn out over the course of any exhibition of these works. Set at six-inch intervals, the repetition of the bare bulbs evokes a Minimalist rigor while its utilitarian simplicity calls to mind the art of Marcel Duchamp and Dan Flavin’s ephemeral use of light. Created in 1993, “Untitled” (Last Light) can be interpreted in many ways: as a reference to the wasting away of the body from disease, the inevitable passage of time, or a celebration of life’s fleeting moments of joy. It explores the major themes found throughout the artist’s best works, making it a brilliant example of his ability to imbue ordinary objects with joy, tragedy and timeless beauty.
Gonzalez-Torres created his first work that incorporated the light string materials in 1991, citing a memory of visiting Paris with his boyfriend, Ross Laycock, as one of his possible inspirations. This sculpture, called “Untitled” (March 5th) #2, in reference to Laycock’s birthday, consisted of two bare bulbs suspended from their entwined power cords. Over the course of his career, Gonzalez-Torres created 24 light string works, with “Untitled” (Last Light) being a prime example. Cascading down the wall or pooled upon the floor, the installation of lights can be arranged in any configuration according to the exhibitor’s preference. The simplicity and elegance of the 24 softly glowing bulbs is contrasted by the multitude of complex meanings that the viewer brings to the work. Infused with potent memories of childhood celebrations, of twinkling holiday lights set aglow by the fireside or flickering in the dark, the simple string of lights evokes the nostalgia of lost youth and the warmth of shared human experience. “Untitled” (Last Light) can touch upon the themes of memory, loss, and the importance of a life well lived that run through Gonzalez-Torres’s oeuvre like a shimmering golden thread.
One of the hallmarks of Gonzalez-Torres’s work lies in its ability to straddle the line between Minimalism and Conceptualism, while forging an intimate bond between the work of art and its viewer. Although often associated with the artist’s personal narrative and socio-political circumstances of his time, especially Gonzalez-Torres’s untimely death from AIDS in 1996, the use of quotidian materials allows the viewer to insert his or her own experiences or memories into the work. The creation of meaning in “Untitled” (Last Light) is never-ending, evolving in accordance with individual viewership, historical circumstances and installation choices. Even as Gonzalez-Torres adopted formal strategies of Minimalism, he rejected its rigid austerity and authoritarianism, instead re-writing the parameters of art-making by allowing his forms to gradually change their shape as time wears on and with each new installation or iteration.
“I don’t necessarily know how these pieces are best displayed,” the artist has said. “I don’t have all of the answers — you decide how you want it done. Whatever you want to do, try it. This is not some Minimalist artwork that has to be exactly two inches to the left and six inches down. Play with it, please. Have fun” (F. Gonzalez-Torres, quoted in Felix Gonzalez-Torres, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1995, p. 191). By questioning his own artistic authority, he shares the creative process with the public, inviting participation and engagement through the constant mutability of form.
Although all of Gonzalez-Torres’s works are officially entitled “Untitled”, approximately three quarters, including “Untitled” (Last Light), have parenthetical additions. These portions refer to specific places or events in the artist’s life but can be understood to carry any meanings that a viewer might associate with them. While some of the references are obvious, indicating place, others are more oblique, imbued with esoteric references known only to the artist himself. In the present work, the viewer is left to puzzle over the evocative phrase “Last Light.” Could this be the last dying breath of a beloved companion? Or perhaps the dying sunlight as it fades beneath the horizon? Both are valid readings of “Untitled” (Last Light) — the full meaning of this poignant work accrues over time as it is considered by new audiences in new spaces.

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