Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio, 1962 Federico Fellini Untitled, 1992 Felix Gonzalez Torres

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    La tentation du docteur Antoine Boccaccio '70

    Untitled, 1992

    On the 16th of May 1991 an image turned up on twenty-four billboards around Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The blowup of a light, grainy photograph, it showed the upper half of a bed covered with wrinkled white sheets, and topped by two pillows still bearing the imprint of the heads that had laid upon them. Startling by its reticence and delicacy amidst the usual run of advertising, the enlarged picture was also surprising because, as time passed, it became evident that it was not advertising at all. When it first appeared, the transfixing bareness of the layout seemed to be waiting for text to be dropped in. But while people on their way around town waited for some label or pitch to be added to the image of the bed, nothing happened.
    Or, rather, something did happen, but it depended on them rather than on the billboard's unidentified source. Viewers supplied their own content for the anomalous but oddly familiar vignette. Where nothing was said, they were free to project their own experiences or fantasies on this unspecified and vastly enlarged domestic situation.
    That sort of speculative response was exactly what the artist, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, had wanted to provoke; viewers were the content of the piece as much as his motives for making it were.
    This landmark outdoor exhibition was typical of Gonzalez-Torres's quiet infiltrations of homes, galleries, museum and public spaces. Politically oriented and politically adroit, the artist tackled the thorniest issues of public policy and socially committed aesthetics with an imaginativeness, intellectual rigor, and rhetorical self-restraint unmatched in his generation. Personally implicated in many of the issues he raised—especially that of AIDS, from which he was to die—Gonzalez-Torres never indulged in special pleading but, rather fashioned the subtlest, most seductive links between those intimately aware of the inequities, threats, and desires toward which he pointed and those untouched by or as yet unconscious of them.

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