The Cuban-born artist fills The MAC with endless paper stacks, piles of sweets and installations of illuminated curtains, as well as paintings, jigsaw-puzzle works and sculptures.
As a member of the New York-based collective Group Material from 1987, Gonzalez-Torres encouraged viewers of his installations to help themselves to their component parts as they travelled around his exhibition – eating the sweets, if they felt like it – in an effort to unite ‘activism’ with art, a key tenet of Group Material’s manifesto, which was to show that art depends on a social context for its meaning. His intention was not therefore to be ‘playful’; rather it was to be ‘democratic’.
On closer inspection, however, the works are also earnest personal tributes. Some have even been described as ‘portraits’, notably the very touching Untitled, a large-scale billboard poster depicting an empty but evidently slept-in bed made after the death of Gonzalez-Torres’s partner that was displayed on advertising hoardings across locations in New York in 1992.