My latest excursion into poetry is about one of the most overlooked in the museum. Tucked away in the back of the Perelman Building Atrium, most people think it is just some decorative lighting fixture. However, it is a beautiful piece by Felix González-Torres . He's most famously known for "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), a pile of iridescent candy wrapped in colorful cellophane, located at the Art Institute of Chicago. González-Torres created this piece after his boyfriend, Ross, died of AIDS-related illness in 1991. Visitors can feel free to take a piece of candy with them, as the work calls for an indefinite supply of the sweet treat.
Most of his work deals with HIV and loss, focusing on the AIDS Crisis. It is still a somewhat underrepresented era in terms of education (I certainly don't remember learning about it in any of my high school U.S. history courses), and not often talked about in museums either. Sure, some institutions will do shows featuring artists from that time and their stores, such as the Mapplethorpe retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, which does mention his own HIV-positive status and his eventual death from AIDS-related complications in 1989. However, it is still seen as a taboo subject, especially for these "places of high art and culture."
How can we go about incorporating narratives of the AIDS Crisis into our institutions when it is clearly still seen as a symbol of shame and perversion? Yes, situations are somewhat better now, but the AIDS Crisis is still very much alive, affecting primarily people of color (in particular Black and Hispanic/Latinx individuals at a much higher rate than white individuals). It is a part of our lives, our history, and it affects our art too. If art is supposed to hold a mirror to reality, why do we insist on covering it? Should any of you venture into the Perelman Building (opening back up in early June), or visit any other museum, I implore you to look for the hidden treasures, the stories left unnoticed, especially since those stories are still being told today.
Open your mind, be brave, and be kind.
For "Untitled" (Petit Palais) by Felix González-Torres (1992)
At first I thought you were weaving
to try and reach the heavens
through electric stars, to find
and hold the one plucked too quickly
from the world below. And here
you rest, waiting, but why?
Perhaps the glittering is, alone
a reminder of what lies ahead.
Roads go many ways, but this path
is seldom tread. I can only imagine
what a lonely heart is capable of.
When the world is a window
you must find any light, looking
out to call him home. Defying
death itself, to call forth
the soul of love long gone.m
is a work of art in itself.
Maybe, just maybe, all you need
is to see him in the cluster,
the galaxy, the little palace, coiled
and cloaked in radiance of
the end of the road home.
To See With One's Body and Soul
This blog documents all of my adventures, as well as my development into an artist, writer, and a better person.