Felix Gonzalez-Torres - Untitled (Death by Gun)
The viewer’s first reaction to Untitled (Death by Gun) is one of uncertainty. Is this stack of papers on the floor meant to be walked around and viewed from different angles, like sculpture? Or did the artist intend these papers to be picked up and examined? Listed on the sheets are the names of 460 individuals killed by gunshot during the week of May 1–7, 1989, cited by name, age, city, and state, with a brief description of the circumstances of their deaths, and, in most cases, a photographic image of the deceased. These images and words, appropriated from Time magazine, where they first appeared, reflect González-Torres’s interest in gun control.
Conceptually, Death by Gun is an ongoing work of art. Viewer participation is an important element, and the public is encouraged to read the sheets and take them away to keep, display, or give to others. While González-Torres determined that the stack is “ideally” nine inches high, he arranged for the depleted sheets to be continually reprinted and replaced, thus insuring that Death by Gun can be distributed indefinitely. From its beginnings, printed art has been made in multiple copies for dissemination to a wide audience. Here that idea is expanded with an edition that is “endless.”