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#FGTStrangebird

The art of Felix Gonzalez-Torres returns to Toronto this month, with installations across the city − at AGO, MOCA and on billboards above you.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (Strange Bird) 6

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (Strange Bird), 1993. Spadina Avenue and College Street. 1 of 6 outdoor billboard locations installed across Toronto, Canada from May 3-30, 2022, in conjunction with the exhibition Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Summer at MOCA Toronto, from March 10-July 31, 2022. Gift of Thomas H. Bjarnason, 1998. © Estate of Felix Gonzalez-Torres / courtesy the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation. Photographer: Laura Findlay

A quiet black-and-white image of a winged form, silhouetted against a moody sky, took flight last week, landing on six billboards across Toronto, from Scarborough to Weston Road. The work, “Untitled” (Strange Bird), by the Cuban-born American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996), shifts commercial sites into spaces of introspection, prompting viewers to consider countless associations as we re-emerge from the pandemic: human connection and sexuality; migration and belonging; love, loss and redemption. 

View the map of locations

Gonzalez-Torres's work was informed, in part, by his experiences as an openly gay man living and working in the 1980s and '90s, within the geopolitical context of that era and against the backdrop of the HIV/AIDS health crisis. Gonzalez-Torres had personal and professional ties to Toronto, and the artist’s work is again present in this city, on billboards and in his first Canadian solo exhibition on now at MOCA Toronto.  

He is celebrated for a multidisciplinary practice distinguished by his use of simple materials and everyday images in repetitive, serial gestures and arrangements. In 1991, Gonzalez-Torres exhibited perhaps his most iconic billboard project – “Untitled”, 1991, presenting on 24 public billboards across Manhattan the same image of an unmade bed, its form marked by the impressions of two bodies.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (Strange Bird) 1

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (Strange Bird), 1993. Richmond Street East and Sherbourne Street. 1 of 6 outdoor billboard locations installed across Toronto, Canada, from May 3-30, 2022, in conjunction with the exhibition Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Summer at MOCA Toronto, from March 10-July 31, 2022. Gift of Thomas H. Bjarnason, 1998. © Estate of Felix Gonzalez-Torres / courtesy the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation. Photographer: Laura Findlay

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Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (Strange Bird) 2

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (Strange Bird), 1993. Eglinton Ave E and Danforth Rd, Scarborough. 1 of 6 outdoor billboard locations installed across Toronto, Canada, from May 3-30, 2022, in conjunction with the exhibition Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Summer at MOCA Toronto, from March 10-July 31, 2022. Gift of Thomas H. Bjarnason, 1998. © Estate of Felix Gonzalez-Torres / courtesy the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation. Photographer: Laura Findlay.

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Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (Strange Bird) 3

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (Strange Bird), 1993. Queen Street West and Beaty Avenue. 1 of 6 outdoor billboard locations installed across Toronto, Canada, from May 3-30, 2022, in conjunction with the exhibition Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Summer at MOCA Toronto, from March 10-July 31, 2022. Gift of Thomas H. Bjarnason, 1998. © Estate of Felix Gonzalez-Torres / courtesy the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation. Photographer: Laura Findlay

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Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (Strange Bird) 4

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (Strange Bird), 1993. Weston Road and Rogers Road. 1 of 6 outdoor billboard locations installed across Toronto, Canada, from May 3-30, 2022, in conjunction with the exhibition Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Summer at MOCA Toronto, from March 10-July 31, 2022. Gift of Thomas H. Bjarnason, 1998. © Estate of Felix Gonzalez-Torres / courtesy the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation. Photographer: Laura Findlay

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Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (Strange Bird) 5

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (Strange Bird), 1993. Dupont Street and Dundas Street. 1 of 6 outdoor billboard locations installed across Toronto, Canada, from May 3-30, 2022, in conjunction with the exhibition Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Summer at MOCA Toronto, from March 10-July 31, 2022. Gift of Thomas H. Bjarnason, 1998. © Estate of Felix Gonzalez-Torres / courtesy the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation. Photographer: Laura Findlay

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Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (Strange Bird) 6

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (Strange Bird), 1993. Spadina Avenue and College Street. 1 of 6 outdoor billboard locations installed across Toronto, Canada from May 3-30, 2022, in conjunction with the exhibition Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Summer at MOCA Toronto, from March 10-July 31, 2022. Gift of Thomas H. Bjarnason, 1998. © Estate of Felix Gonzalez-Torres / courtesy the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation. Photographer: Laura Findlay

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“Landscape”, Gonzalez-Torres once stated, is never just the natural environment, but our “cultural concerns, political realities and civic issues.”  At MOCA, “Untitled,” 1989, an artwork that is a type of self-portrait, supports this vision. It’s a text-based work, listing names, events, locations, titles and corresponding dates, each of which can be understood as private or public reference points. For this exhibition, the text is installed just below the ceiling and spanning three adjoining walls. As MOCA curator Rui Mateus Amaral notes, this is “continuous, evenly spaced and hand-applied, the artist's portrait leaves the impressions of a receipt, bibliography, résumé or passport.”

“Untitled" (Strange Bird) is on view at the AGO (where it can be seen on Level 4) and on billboards across the city, in partnership with MOCA Toronto from May 2 to 30. Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Summer, the first solo exhibition of the artist’s work in Canada, is on view at MOCA Toronto now until July 31. 

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