This exhibition will include two works by Felix Gonzalez-Torres that have never been publicly exhibited. One is a small early work, "Untitled"(Key West Weekend), 1989, which is comprised of a black and white puzzle of a bird in the sky that sits on top of a clear Plexiglas pedestal. This is the first piece in which Gonzalez-Torres used the image of a bird. The second work in the exhibition, "Untitled", 1995, is a billboard displayed in both the gallery, as well as in twenty four outdoor billboard locations throughout the boroughs of New York City. This is the last work in which Gonzalez-Torres used the image of a bird in a vast sky, as well as the last piece registered in his inventory.
Gonzalez-Torres took hundreds of photographs of birds soaring. Perhaps the taking of these pictures was the most consistent practice throughout the eleven years in which he made the work that he considered the basis of his oeuvre. From the hundreds of photographs taken, images of birds in the sky purposefully only appeared in just 16 works. In addition, if someone were to describe Gonzalez-Torres' work, the images of birds in the sky would definitely not be the first thing to come to one's mind, although images of this nature are the most consistent subject in all of Gonzalez-Torres' work. These images traverse many of Gonzalez-Torres' bodies of work, from stack pieces to puzzles and billboard pieces to series of framed photographs.
For the last exhibition Gonzalez-Torres planned for my gallery before his death in 1996, he chose to show a room full of photographs of birds in the sky. Contrary to what the public had grown to expect, in this exhibition there were no elements to the work that could be taken away from this show or walked through – no ethereal objects. Gonzalez-Torres was always interested in increasing meaning by subverting the expected. Transient objects had become expected of Gonzalez-Torres. He switched back to the wall – to an exhibition of a series of fourteen classically framed and hung black and white photographs of birds, in this case, vultures. Felix knew this would be his last show.
So much of Felix's work seems to deal with a fleeting moment. So often it seems to be interpreted or misinterpreted as being about loss, the inability to hold on to these moments. But Felix was endlessly optimistic. There wasn't just loss. That these moments exist or existed meant that they had an effect and perhaps, but not necessarily, that they could re-occur. So much of Felix's work helps us realize that change and the seemingly fleeting can create infinite growth.
The outdoor billboard project is in association with, and made possible by, the generous support of Creative Time.