68 Putting It Together
While it may not seem like it, the prior content was only a brief survey that places the visual record within the trajectory of the historical context. The history of humanity can be seen through art history, from early prehistoric cave paintings to the artwork we will return to now by Felix Gonzalez-Torres.
- How do artworks build on what came before them?
- How was Marcel Duchamp’s ‘readymades’ a kind of seismic shift in the world of art, that impacted what kinds of things are considered art today?
- How is this installation by Gonzalez-Torres a product of the time it was created in?
Artwork from one era to the next is rarely an outright rejection of what came before, rather the breaks between periods and stylistic movements is more a fuzzy transition than a hard one. Without doubt every artwork is impacted by what came before it. Consider the invention of photography. Until photography, drawing and painting were the primary mediums for realistic representational imagery. Photography quickly assumes this role, and after its invention in late 19th century, painting enters a dramatic period of experimentation from impressionism, to cubism, to abstraction expressionism.
Marcel Duchamp’s readymades destabilized what could be considered legitimate art objects, boldly paving the way for conceptual installations like Felix Gonzalez-Torres Candies. Gonzalez-Torres was a gay man making art in America during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s and 90’s. At the time there was an erroneous stigma that the disease was a gay epidemic. This encouraged already bigoted attitudes towards gay men, in particular, and further discrimination. Candies is a product of this time, not only a memorial to the love of his life, Ross, dying of AIDS, but a product of people’s attitudes towards those suffering with AIDS.