Paired, Gold: Felix Gonzalez-Torres & Roni Horn, Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY


Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (Golden), 1995
Plastic beads and metal rod, variable dimensions
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Photo: Thorsten Monschein

October 2, 2009 – January 6, 2010

The aesthetic dialogue between Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Roni Horn is embodied in an exchange of gold, a reciprocal gift between two artists that resonates with the poetry of their respective projects. In 1990 during Horn’s solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Gonzalez-Torres encountered her sculpture Forms from the Gold Field (1980–82), two pounds of pure gold compressed into a luminous rectangular mat. Set directly on the floor in an otherwise empty gallery, the work threatens to dissolve into dazzling immateriality, the sense of pure surface that its delicacy invokes. Impressed by its radical simplicity and emotive capabilities, Gonzalez-Torres shared his memory of the work with Horn when they met in 1993. A few days later, she sent him a square of gold foil as a symbol of their newfound friendship and shared sensibilities. He was so inspired by her gesture and the expansiveness of her subtle work that he fashioned his own “gold field” in her honor: “Untitled” (Placebo – Landscape – for Roni) (1993), an endlessly replaceable candy spill of gold cellophane–wrapped sweets. Having described Horn’s Gold Field in his essay “1990: L.A, ‘The Gold Field’” from Earths Grow Thick: Roni Horn, as “a new landscape, a possible horizon, a place of rest and absolute beauty,” Gonzalez-Torres created a gleaming, topographical sculpture that, in the spirit of his work, is always free for the taking.

Gonzalez-Torres used the color again in “Untitled” (Golden) (1995), one of his lustrous beaded curtains, which are used as room dividers or suspended in doorways through which the viewer must pass. Though Gonzalez-Torres always distanced himself from a stereotypically Hispanic aesthetic, refusing to be marginalized by any defining label, the beaded curtains invoke thoughts of his Cuban roots, calling to mind images of neighborhood bodegas or even family homes. Like his illuminated strings of light and candy spills, the curtains suggest festive times; yet, rendered here in glittering gold, the ample, plastic-beaded curtain is both humble and sublime.

Experienced together, Horn’s Gold Field (1980–82) and the recent acquisition, Gonzalez-Torres’s “Untitled” (Golden), reflect on the artists’ respect for the evocative potential of minimal form and the symbolic valence of pure color. The fragile beauty of the works suspends commonplace meanings attached to gold as a source of wealth and extravagance, inviting instead a kind of poetic reverie on its materiality and symbolic resonance.

—Nancy Spector, Chief Curator