Recent visitors to the High Line may have noticed a billboard that has appeared on a building on 13th St., across from the Standard Hotel. It has no text, and shows an image of an empty mussed bed, its pillows still showing the impressions of two heads. This mysterious and evocative image is in fact a piece by the artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres.
Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996) is best known for creating images that addressed his homosexuality and the painful loss of friends to AIDS, including his longtime partner and love Ross Laycock. During the "culture wars" of the 1980s and '90s, many artists were under attack by right wing politicians for making work that explicitly depicted sexual themes. In response, Gonzalez-Torres created images that addressed same-sex love using somewhat veiled imagery. The photograph in this work is an image of quiet intimacy. While it suggests that two lovers have recently occupied a bed together, their presence is conveyed only as a ghostly absence.
This work, Untitled (1991), was conceived by the artist to be shown as a billboard in public space. It is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, and its presentation in six different sites around New York City over the next few months is in conjunction with an exhibition at the Flag Art Foundation entitled Floating a Boulder: Works by Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Jim Hodges. For more information on the exhibition which runs through the end of January, visit www.flagartfoundation.org.