About this artwork
Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s work is consistently characterized by a sense of quiet elegy. One of the defining moments in his widely influential career, “Untitled” can be considered a self-portrait in the form of words and dates. First realized in 1989, the work expanded with subsequent installations until the artist’s premature death in 1996, and can continue to shift in ongoing manifestations. The portrait joins historical events and enigmatic personal milestones into a running text placed close to the ceiling. Such an installation is reminiscent of traditional friezes carved on the faces of public architecture, including the facade of the Art Institute’s 1893 Allerton Building, which includes artists’ names chiseled into a horizontal band. By offering clues to a personal history in a commemorative form normally dedicated to institutional use, Gonzalez-Torres undercuts the public and official in favor of the private and subjective, reminding us that an individual’s identity is not always reducible to an image captured on canvas or etched in marble. “Untitled” can change each time it is installed and may be presented in an infinite variety of ways. Its owner is obliged to consider adding (or subtracting) events, including ones subsequent to the artist’s death, ensuring that it remains relevant and dynamic.
- Felix Gonzalez-Torres
- United States
- Paint on wall
- Dimensions vary with installation
- The Art Institute of Chicago, bequest of Carolyn Spiegel; Watson F. Blair Prize, Muriel Kallis Newman, Sara Szold and Modern and Contemporary Discretionary funds; Samuel and Sarah Deson and Oscar L. Gerber Memorial endowments; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund Purchase: gift of Jean and James E. Douglas Jr., Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein, Collectors Forum, Doris and Don Fisher, Niko and Steve Mayer, Elaine McKeon, and Danielle and Brooks Walker Jr.
- © The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation.