July 8, 2006

A String Of Lights

Filed under: Art, Uncategorized — Brian @ 7:32 pm

This is, “Untitled (Last Light), 1993” by Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

From the plaque:

Throughout his career, Felix Gonzalez-Torres made more than 20 light string works. Apart from the number of bulbs in each piece, and their vaguely referential, parenthetical titles, the only variations from work to work result from installation, the specifics of which the artist insisted on leaving to the discretion of the respective owners. Over the course of any given installation, some of the bulbs burn out; thus the ephemeral nature of the materials imbues the work with a certain sense of melancholy.

This is why I don’t like much “modern ‘art'”. It is entirely in the mind of the viewer, and requires zero skill (or, in some cases, a serious – sometimes intentional – lack of skill) on the part of the “artist.” There is far more art in the plaque describing this piece than there is in the piece itself.

I met too many of this kind of “artist” in college to take any of them seriously. (I realize I’m closing myself off to some potentially worthwhile work this way, but when the alternative is to play the fool, attempting to sense the meaning in a strand of lights lying where they fell, I’m OK with the choice.) What separates this particular piece of “art” from the Christmas lights in your basement? (Yeah, yeah, I know … “you didn’t see fit to mention the lights in your basement, but this work is provoking existential thoughts on the nature of art and artistry itself. It’s forcing you to question your pre-conceived notions of what ‘art’ really is, and expanding your horizons.” Of course.)

It turns out that Mr. Gonzalez-Torres is also behind the pile of candy in the corner that I mentioned on the previous post. The candy pile is on the other side of the wall from these lights. Scroll to the right here for a photo of that.

(Did my use of the phrase behind the pile of candy in the corner make you think – just for a moment – that the artist himself was hiding in the pile? He isn’t. It’s just candy. Are you re-evaluating your prejudiced and jaded notions of the written word? …of the very act of communication?)



  1. I had to take my own trip to the museum today and this time, I took notes and posted my thoughts about the “communication” of modern art. Thanks for posting the photos. I think we’re on the same page. :-)

    Comment by Gwynne — July 8, 2006 @ 9:10 pm

  2. Well, you gotta admit that that’s a pretty impressive pile of candy, as was the artist’s self-control in piling instead of eating. Maybe that’s the starving artist at work. ;-)

    Comment by Eric — July 10, 2006 @ 8:08 pm

  3. I hadn’t considered that aspect of this work, Eric.

    But you’re right about the self-control. There are more sides to this work than I’d imagined!

    Or maybe it’s those bland hard candies that languish in the trick-or-treat bag until Easter. Those are easy to not eat.

    (On a more charitable note, I will confess that this really has made me think about “what is art” in a way I haven’t in a long time.)

    Comment by Brian — July 12, 2006 @ 6:14 am

  4. Gwynne – I got a lot out of your post.

    Funny how something I’d posted to poke fun at has proven to be quite thought-provoking after all.

    Comment by Brian — July 12, 2006 @ 6:15 am

  5. The “pile of candy in the corner” has a deep meaning behind it, one that I think adds incomparable depth to the piece. The pile originally weighed as much as his friend and lover who was dying of AIDS, and as the viewer took candy away, it symbolized the weight loss the he was suffering.

    To me (and I know you have no idea who I am or why I matter, I’m simply offering you my view as an Art History major and lover of all art) the idea behind a piece of art is more important than the execution. If the execution was most important, all paintings would look the same.

    Jsut offering another view.

    Be well,

    Comment by Britta — November 13, 2006 @ 12:07 am

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Britta, and leaving your thoughts. I’m grateful that you took the time to leave that comment.

    I didn’t know that story – it certainly does add depth, to say the least, and gives me another reason to wish I hadn’t posted this. Such an expression, born in such pain, is not the kind of thing I’d like to be known for mocking.

    Having seen these works, and posted this, and thought about why I feel the way I do, I’ve come to a more encompassing view of what art can be. It hasn’t changed my preferences – I still prefer a work that is intrinsically engaging over one that requires explanation before it can even be recognized as “art” – but it has opened my mind a bit. Which, of course, is one of the goals of an artist when he creates such works as these.

    Comment by Brian — November 13, 2006 @ 6:58 am

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