Whether it’s a blog, a LinkedIn profile or a perfectly curated Facebook page, most people’s lives - or the lives they want us to see - thrive in the social media realm, inviting everyone to have a peek. But what if we had access to their private lives and thoughts? How are we different in private and in public?
These are questions that pervade Rockbund Art Museum's solo exhibition of artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Known for both his unconventional methodology and sensitivity to his audience’s experience, Gonzalez-Torres explored political and personal topics through the use of everyday objects such as mirrors, strings of light bulbs and sheets of paper. In the late artist’s first exhibition in China, 40 pieces from 30 institutions and collections collectively form a truly thought-provoking experience.
All of the exhibited pieces are titled “Untitled” - parenthetical titles are included - and thereby invite viewers to draw their own meanings from the myriad themes. The exhibition begins with a large stack of paper ironically titled “Untitled” (The End). Meant to resemble blank obituaries, it invites visitors to possibly think of the end as the beginning. Also on the first floor are a pair of clocks, “Untitled” (Perfect Lovers), again touching on the idea of time.
As visitors make their way to the second level, they are guided by a cord of dangling lights, “Untitled” (North). A signature component in Gonzalez-Torres’ art, the bulbs aid in connecting the viewer to the site and the exhibition. Perspectives are challenged on the second floor, where what seems to be a long, rectangular carpet decorates the middle of the room.
Upon further inspection, the object is revealed to be a large pile of candy, “Untitled” (Public Opinion) and visitors are allowed to eat the licorice candies if they are so inclined. Another pile of candy is hidden around the corner, “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) that, at an “ideal weight” of 79.5 kilograms, can be viewed as a metaphor for the constant withering and changing of our bodies.
With everything from a go-go dancing platform and hanging gold beads to photographic jigsaw puzzles, each of the six floors is just as compelling as the last. And with the endless interpretations people can have of this exhibition, we find ourselves wishing Gonzalez-Torres was around to hear them in 21st century China.
What: Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Where: Rockbund Art Museum, 20 Huqiu Lu, near Beijing Dong Lu
When: Through December 25
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