As one of Félix González-Torres’s powerful candy-spill works, “Untitled” (L.A.) finds beauty in the everyday by transforming a bounty of cellophane-wrapped candies into a dazzling arrangement of color, form, and texture. Viewers are encouraged to take and taste the candy, activating the work in a way that suggests a wide range of profound meanings. The participation of each viewer creates a moment of engagement that is sensory and personal. The intimate nature and fluctuating structure of González-Torres’s candy works are often interpreted as being related to tragedy in the artist’s private life. This artwork—jointly owned by Art Bridges and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art—was created in 1991, the same year that his beloved partner Ross Laycock lost his life due to an AIDS-related illness. The gradual depletion and replenishment of the candy-spills has been seen as metaphoric, seeming to represent the deterioration of a human body ravaged by illness. At the same time, it can also be seen as a type of immortality generated through ritual remembrance and continual re-creation. González-Torres avoided assigning explicit interpretations to his candy works, preferring them to remain available for all to experience in a personal way.
Observant visitors have inquired about the Asheville Art Museum’s choice to use orange candies in the installation, which provides another opportunity to learn about the artist’s intent. The nature of González-Torres’s candy works, like many of his manifestable works, is that they have specific, yet open-ended parameters. When the work is loaned, the owner—Crystal Bridges Museum of American and Art Bridges—temporarily extends to the borrower the owner’s rights to interpret these specific, yet open-ended parameters. Part of our responsibility was to think about how to choose the candies. One of the parameters of the work is that it is supposed to be possible to have an ease of manifestation in order for the work to be able to continue to exist. It was especially interesting to think about this in a time when there are supply chain issues and there were no green candies available. As well as realizing that making a different choice was contributing to the complexity of this work, we also chose tangerine for its aesthetic relationship to the works from Robert Rauschenberg’s Ruminations series.
This interactive artwork is currently on view in Ruminations on Memory through March 14, 2022.