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"Untitled" (Ross)

"Untitled" (Ross) (1991), the work that inspires this exhibition, is one of a number of Felix Gonzalez-Torres's famous candy pieces. It consists of an "ideal weight" of 175 pounds (or approximately 80 kilograms) of "candies individually wrapped in variously colored cellophane," as the official caption provided by the Felix GonzalezTorres Foundation informs us, in an "endless supply." The title of this group exhibition may seem cryptic to some, as opposed to Untitled (Abstraction) and Untitled (History), which are not precisely named after works by Gonzalez-Torres but more clearly say what the exhibitions are about. In "Untitled" (Ross), the first question that arises is, Who is Ross?

Only a Gonzalez-Torres aficionado would perhaps know. Ross Laycock was his partner, and he died from AIDS in 1991, five years before the artist himself did. Several works by Gonzalez-Torres invoke his lover's name, including "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in LA) (1991), another candy piece; "Untitled" (Ross Scuba Diving) (1991), a jigsaw puzzle; and "Untitled" (Ross in LA) (1991), a stack piece. "Untitled" (Rossmore) (1991), also a candy piece, references the Los Angeles street where the artist and Ross lived together in 1991, when GonzalezTorres was teaching at California Institute of the Arts, and it also quite simply means "more Ross." All of these works were made the year Ross died, a turning point in the artist's career. He often declared that his audience was only Ross. In an interview with Robert Storr in 1995, he stated, "When people ask me, 'Who is your public?' I say honestly, without skipping a beat, 'Ross.'"

Gonzalez-Torres's"Untitled" (Ross) can be understood as a portrait of Ross, and the ideal weight of 175 pounds as a reference to the weight of an adult man, Ross himself. Thus, when the viewer picks up a candy, unwraps it, and ingests it, he or she is metaphorically eating a piece of Ross's body, a body that is endlessly consumed yet continually reappearing due to its "endless supply"-a body that in the early 1990s, Republican years in the United States, was often the target of prejudice, an object of fear to be kept afar, given its HIV status. After the death of Ross, through this and other works Gonzalez-Torres multiplied the representation of his lover's body infinitely and made it available to viewers all over the world forever more, so that all could become one with Ross. The metaphorical ingestion of a man's body as represented by food, infinitely multiplied in order to commemorate or remember that body, recalls the Eucharist. In the Catholic church, when ingested in the Eucharist at mass, bread and wine cease to be what they materially are, and are transformed into the body and blood of Christ. "This is my Body," Jesus said. "This is Ross's body," Gonzalez-Torres seems to tell us, as we eat the candy that he generously offers up. This metaphorical cannibalism also reflects the fantasy of amorous fusion-of lovers becoming one through bodily ingestion.

Our decision to have a rather obscure reference in this exhibition's title is an homage to Ross and Gonzalez-Torres as well as a way of blending the personal into the political through biographical and poetic means. Our interest is not so much in the biographical details of Ross, who in fact is seldom identified by his last name and whose picture is rarely seen, but in what and how he represents. In the context of this exhibition, Ross becomes an emblem of themes of gay love, relations, family, identity, desire, sexuality, and loss, all of which are addressed in different ways by the works in the show.

The notion of family is of course a contested one in gay or queer communities, and one must find alternative denominations and compositions to define one's closer circle and peers. This is the meaning of Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset's The Black and White Diary, Fig. 5 (2009), which consists of 364 black-and-white photographs that the artists have made over the years of their friends in domestic and informal settings. They are all framed in white synthetic leather and displayed in a long corridor of shelves overstuffed with pictures. On the other hand, George Awde presents two carefully constructed photographs of groups of young Lebanese men, one taken in a hair salon and one in a pink living room. Despite the photographs' precise formal character and well-balanced compositions, the clear relationship between the sitters is left deliberately unnamed (in spite of that, Awde is aware of, and comfortable with, the context in which the photographs are presented here).

From alternative familial compositions, we move to couples. Collier Schorr presents a series of five photographs of a young female couple in Germany, Die Zwei (Spring Break, 1997). Among the images of the two young women exchanging caresses, particularly intriguing is the one in which one of them is moisturizing her hands with an excessive amount of cream. Other couples are brought into the exhibition metonymically. Tammy Rae Carland's photographs of Lesbian Beds (2002) show empty double beds, and in turn reference another of Gonzalez-Torres's homages to Ross, his famous "Untitled" (1991), a billboard showing a black-andwhite photograph of his empty bed, made the year his lover died. Beds are a sub-motif in the exhibition, and Kutluğ Ataman's forever (2011) consists of an actual bed that he shared during a past relationship, an object he was able to recover and transform into a sculpture to somehow work through his personal memories. Recalling Awde's piece, another bed work that takes a subtler approach, leaving roles, relationships, and identities undefined, is Jonathas de Andrade's 2 em 1 (2 in 1, 2010), in which two handsome Brazilian young men wearing matching clothes demonstrate how to transform two single beds into one large double bed through diagrams and photographs that are at once clinically descriptive and subtly arousing.

Couples in turn unfold into the double, and the theme reappears in an abstract way in Tom Burr's Endlessly Repeated Gesture (2009), a wooden structure that blends modernist and disco aesthetics through an ironically minimal repertoire; white appears in fur, and the grid, seriality, and repetition in tiled mirrors. Juan Capistran also casts an ironic eye at minimalism via the fashioning of what looks like two John McCracken sculptures leaned against one another. Titled Black on Black (Two Johns) (2007), the two black horizontal slabs, each 182 centimeters tall, become obviously anthropomorphized and assume a position of sexual intercourse. The perversion of minimalism and conceptualism, often with sexual connotations, was something very familiar to Gonzalez-Torres, who sought to contaminate high-modernist strategies with urgent political and personal content.

Carlos Herrera's sculptures appropriating sporting apparel such as used sneakers, balls, and bicycle seats, all tightly fastened, often have doubling or symmetric motifs, yet their erotically charged nature is apparent from their fetishistic and metonymical quality. They bring to mind the fantasy of sportsmen from Herrera's home country, Argentina, land of football. And here we enter the arena of more alternative sexual practices, in which gay or queer sexuality is necessarily inscribed. More fetishistic and metonymical qualities are brought in by David Haines's Still life with Nike, Adidas and New Balance sneakers (2005), in which a drawing of more than a dozen sneakers is juxtaposed with a piece of chewed gum stuck on the surface of the paper. Colter Jacobsen's C (2010) is another work with erotic undertones. It shows not a couple, but a drawing of an iPhone picture of a single shirtless man hiding his face, much like those typically circulating on the Internet by people seeking anonymous sexual encounters. In a more historical yet fragmented way, Henrik Olesen's Pre Post: Speaking Backwards (2006-11) is a brochure of 16 pages compiling different queer accounts and histories, from gay subcultures to the practice of sex in public spaces, in art and society.

Finally, the narrative of the exhibition ends with Ira Sachs's Last Address (2009), subtitled "an elegy for a generation of New York City artists who died of AIDS." The video consists of a sequence of beautifully simple images of facades and details of houses and buildings where artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Peter Hujar, Keith Haring, Vito Russo, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres were living at the time of their deaths. Rossmore, in Los Angeles, was the last address in which Gonzalez-Torres lived with Ross, in 1991; Sachs's film in turn shows the last address of GonzalezTorres: London Terrace on West 23rd Street in New York.

- j h/a p