mima. Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Centre Square Middlesbrough TS1 2AZ UK

  • 1.Felix Gonzales Torres
    Title : 1.Felix Gonzales Torres
  • 2.Felix Gonzales Torres
    Title : 2.Felix Gonzales Torres
  • 3.Felix Gonzales Torres
    Title : 3.Felix Gonzales Torres
  • 4.Felix Gonzales Torres
    Title : 4.Felix Gonzales Torres
  • 5.Felix Gonzales Torres
    Title : 5.Felix Gonzales Torres

In 1992 Felix started his most eloquent works, twenty-four light sculptures each consisting of forty-two, fifteen or twenty-five watt white light bulbs distributed evenly over eleven metres of electrical cord. The works are identical, varying only in their number of bulbs, titles and their installation, which is left to the discretion of the installer.

Sublimely beautiful, yet so commonplace that outside a museum or gallery they resist classification as art, the light strings are his ultimate gesture of involving the audience in the production of meaning and the power of the imagination. A light string is a work of art, the artist explains, that ‘doesn’t really look like artwork, but its there. You have to take a second look’. Once the piece has been attributed a title, meaning is suggested. mima has brought together six of the ten existing single lightstrings: ‘Untitled’ (A Couple), ‘Untitled’ (Leaves of Grass), ‘Untitled’ (Tim Hotel), ‘Untitled’ (Ischia), ‘Untitled’ (Miami) and ‘Untitled’ (rue St. Denis) each subtitle referring to Felix’s own memories of places, people and ideas.

In embracing the splendour and grace of artificial light, he acknowledges its myriad significations in modern society. Light has functioned as a sign of that modernity: the strengths of the seething city, the comforting warmth of the domestic interior, the brilliance of theatrical illumination, and the seductive illusion of the cinema. The list is almost endless, as are the possible explanations of the work.

Dayrooms are familiar to us as communal living spaces in residential institutions such as a hospital or guesthouse. There is often an attempt at decorating these spaces, aiming to make them more homely and yet they are never quite comfortable; the domesticity of others, chosen by the owner with guests in mind but at the same time not the choice of the guest. Within a hospital the dayroom maybe the space where the patient awaits news, perhaps good, perhaps bad; potentially devastating.

For his installation The Dayroom, William has constructed a room, a simple cube. From the outside the room is exposed for what it is: a rough framework of wooden struts and plasterboard. Inside the room is plastered to a smooth finish and then painted in a heritage colour called ‘Dayroom Yellow’. There is an insincerity to the sophistication of the room, amplified by the slightly sickly yellow of the walls and the sodium light emitted by the double fluorescent tubes. The room sits between elegance and artifice.

Inside the room is hung a colour pencil drawing and a painting, representing respectively a single snowdrop and an expanse of sky. These offer a glimpse of a potential outside that can be imagined by the viewer. They are metaphorical windows that stand in lucid contrast to the actual door and window of the room, which serve to remind the viewer of the illusion in which they are involved.

‘Thus were my sympathies enlarged, and thus Daily the common range of visible things Grew dear to me ...’ William Wordsworth

The Daisy Field is a new installation created for mima. It comprises some 70 monochrome watercolours in which the colour wash, having been applied, is gradually removed. This leaves just a trace of its previous colour held within a trembling line; the edge of the painting being the last residue of the initial colour.

Each individual watercolour references a single daisy and collectively they recall the sight of a field of daisies. Encountering this sight for the first time, unexpectedly, the eye becomes transfixed by a sea of white. At first the effect is dazzling: each individual flower blends in to an overwhelming perception of whiteness and light. Gradually the eye becomes attuned to individual nuances and subtleties relishing a beauty of which the mind had previously been unaware.

The origin of the word ‘daisy’ comes from the Old English dæges eage or ‘day’s eye’. Each watercolour is hung at a particular height aligning it with the upper torso of the viewer and directing the attention towards the centre of the flower. This gives the sense of a portrait, directing the viewer’s gaze, but also creating a feeling of the day’s eye looking back at you.

This double stack piece was the centrepiece of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ first exhibition at Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York in 1990. It consists of two stacks of white paper of identical size. Each 29 inches by 23 inches by an ideal height of 26 inches, placed next to each other with their longest side parallel and approximately 10 inches apart.

In the centre of each of the pieces of paper is a text in Trump Medieval font. Felix would go on to use this typeface for the majority of his works involving text. The texts face inwards, as if in dialogue with each other. One reads: nowhere better than this place. The other: somewhere better than this place. At first the two statements appear contradictory or create a feeling of ambiguity. One suggests a yearning for a distant ‘better’ place, the other affirming that the current location is the best and only place to be. Within the context of this exhibition the dialogue between the two contrary texts somewhere… nowhere is an appeal to concentrate on the here and now, to raise hope and nurture local aspiration.

Ideal height refers to the possible changing status of the work’s height. As an audience member you are invited to take with you a sheet of paper from the stack, as a result the height of the stack will vary. Felix determined an ideal height for each stack piece, however mima is not obligated to maintain the work at this height. The ideal is only a guideline or a reference to the works initial installation. Should all the sheets be taken by our audiences over the course of the exhibition mima may choose to not replenish either stack, leaving the space empty for the remainder of the presentation.

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