Felix Gonzalez-Torres was a visual artist who, in 1996, died from Aids. One of his most well known works is Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), a pile of sweet that in it’s complete state approximated his deceased lover’s weight (175 lbs.) when he was healthy. Gonzalez-Torres coupled romanticism with a capitalistic desire to be consumed as he encourages the audience to take a sweet and eat it.
The pile of foil wrapped candy seems to droop, world weary. The snapped photos of it seem to come across as guilt ridden, like the viewer has just stumbled across someone’s comfort eating hoard. At the heart of the artwork is an emptiness that is only filled with the response of the participating art viewer. But instead of a new whole, the sweet is consumed and forms a small death.
The emptiness also appears in his jigsaws of photographs that hint of memory and meaning outside of the gallery and in the mind of the artist. The audience feels like an intruder in a family photo album here.
Back with the pile of sweets, the slogan “I consume, therefore I am” forces Ross into existence as the public repeatedly eats his body weight while activating his memory to live on.