The art of Felix Gonzalez-Torres contains many dualities. Muted yet immutable, heartening yet heartbreaking, political yet tender--his work is both beautiful and moving in its concomitant expression of permanence and change. Gonzalez-Torres's personal and political urgencies fostered works of art that maintain an emotional force beneath their stark formal minimalism. Made during the height of the AIDS epidemic, in the late eighties and early nineties, his art also serves as an abiding elegy to his lost lover, Ross, who died of AIDS in 1991. It is a celebration of their love and companionship, all the while lamenting the absence left in the wake of his death.
"Untitled", executed in 1995, is a distillation of Gonzalez-Torres' most noted stylistic and conceptual hallmarks. The piece features two identical silver-coated brass rings conjoined and mounted side by side with neither explanatory text nor title elucidating their significance. Ever laconic, the rings' formal simplicity produces an effect of beguiling mystery as one attempts to divine their import. How much they resonate is owed to Gonzalez-Torres' unparalleled ability to endow elusive, if plain objects with a staggering emotional charge, meanwhile never sacrificing a gorgeous minimalist aesthetic in the process.
The motif of twin circles set abreast appears throughout Gonzalez-Torres' oeuvre. Under his deft touch, the mere juxtaposition of paired hoops evokes the joys and pleasures of pairing--and the startling anguish caused by the suggestion of separation. "Untitled" (Perfect Lovers), 1991 for example, features twin clocks ticking in unison until one inevitably starts to fail and falter. "Untitled" (March 5th) #1, 1991 presents two round mirrors side by side, framing any pair who approaches them together, and underscoring the absence of another if approached alone. In "Untitled", 1995 though the metal rings are individual segments, they mirror one another exactly, in the same way a couple passionately in love begins feeling utter correspondence. Installed side by side, they exist inextricably and forevermore together, unburdened by a future featuring one without the other. A master of symbolic gestures, Gonzalez-Torres understood that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. After all, two circles looped together form a lemniscate--indeed, the symbol for infinity.