Using simple methods and ephemeral forms, Felix Gonzalez-Torres explored the complex social and political issues surrounding community, identity, loss, memory, and the human condition. Gonzalez-Torres was an openly gay artist during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but his practice resonates beyond this context. With an approach that is rooted in both Minimalist and Conceptual schools of thought, his works are both emotional and political, and they often incorporate everyday materials such as candy, strings of lights, stacks of paper, jigsaw puzzles, mirrors, beads, and billboards.
Untitled (Double Portrait) is from the artist’s “stack” series and is made up of hundreds of sheets of paper featuring an image of two circles printed in lustrous gold. They are presented in a neat pile on the museum floor, available for visitors to take away; infinite numbers of new copies may be printed. The image this work carries represents one of the most important themes found in Gonzalez-Torres’s work: the pairing of two people in togetherness, solidarity, and love. These “anti-monuments,” as the artist described his “stack” works, are meant to symbolize the acts of loss and regeneration. Gonzalez-Torres also desired to subvert the traditional “look but do not touch” rules often associated with viewing and experiencing works of art.