This is a photo of Feliz Gonzales-Torres’ work, Untitled (Death by Gun) from 1990. A page from it hangs on the wall in my studio where, among other things, I write this blog. The page is a little battered now, having been hung and rehung as I have moved over the years. Twenty-five years have passed since the piece was created, but its message is no less relevant or powerful. The work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It consists of a stack of sheets of printed paper; visitors are allowed to take one home with them.
It shows (in case you haven’t followed the link above, everyone in the United States who died by gun – murder, suicide, accident – in a one week period. 460 people, from children to the elderly. Many of these people led ordinary lives, and were unknown to the public at large. They were statistics. The Museum of Modern Art’s text linked above, from Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, by Deborah Wye, includes this line: “No opinion about gun control is added by the artist.” Except of course that choosing such a topic, an atypical subject for Gonzalez-Torres, is a comment in itself. Try to have a pro-gun mindset while reading the brief summaries of how each person died. Odds are you won’t be able to sustain it.
I wrote a longer appreciation of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ work for my old blog, and I’ll repost it here soon. It covers Untitled (Death by Gun), but there’s no harm in reading about it a second time. Now if we could only do more than just read….