The Body in Art: Artist Entry 1

Ashley Houser

As you walk past, you see a pile of candy. You begin to ask yourself why is the candy here? Are they strategically placed? Am I allowed to eat a piece? Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s installation:

a work of art that usually consists of multiple components often in mixed media and that is exhibited in a usually large space in an arrangement specified by the artist.1

(figure 1)

“Untitled”(Portrait of Ross in LA) (figure 1)sparked these questions. After further research, it is discovered that this piece is a memorial for Gonzalez-Torres’s partner Ross who died of an aids related illness in 1991. He used Ross’s starting weight before the illness and the viewers taking the candy from this installation represented his weight loss throughout his suffering with aids. Throughout the aid’s crisis, many artists created works in which were controversial at the time. The artists were expressing the ignorance they felt from the government and society. Ronald Reagan, president during this era, did not say the word “aids” until 1985.2 There was a stigma around aids, and artists like Gonzalez-Torres were attempting to bring awareness, and break the stigma that surrounded it.

The relevance of Gonzalez-Torres’s work stays in tack into the contemporary era.

While there has been much development and change since the 1980s and 1990s, there has been no cure and there has remained a stigma attached to the disease. Treatment allows individuals with HIV to live long and fairly normal lives, however, there is still much more work needed in the area, and there is a need for unstigmatized conversation.3


After decades, aid’s still has a stigma around the conversation. Gonzalez-Torres’s work shows the complexity of the virus itself, and the love between two people suffering from it. As you take a piece of candy away, the body begins to diminish; as it does when filled with the virus. As more is taken away from the body, the love remains the same.

1 “Installation.” Merriam-Webster. Accessed March 19, 2019.

2 Criswell, Christopher. AIDS Timeline. Accessed May 02, 2019.

3 “Free Candy in a Museum – Félix González-Torres.” Public Delivery. April 17, 2019. Accessed May 02, 2019.


Opening Contemporary Art Copyright © by Sarah Parrish. All Rights Reserved.

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