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Interactive exhibit invites viewers to take candy, contemplate love and loss

An interactive artwork by Felix Gonzalez-Torres that is created with candy is currently on view at the Speed Art Museum.
Mindy Best
An interactive artwork by Felix Gonzalez-Torres that is created with candy is currently on view at the Speed Art Museum.

The interactive candy artwork was created by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, a Cuban-American artist who died in 1996 from an AIDS-related illness.

Gonzalez-Torres created over 20 interactive works using candy during his life. They were created after the loss of his partner who died due to AIDS in 1991.

Tyler Blackwell, the contemporary art curator at the Speed, said Gonzalez-Torres’ work came during the height of the AIDS crisis, and its relevance “continues beyond his own lifetime.”

“I think that we don't fully grasp how many people passed, and how many like, geniuses passed like someone like Felix,” Blackwell said. “I hope that by installing a work like this that is 30 years old, it is sort of a reminder and...connection to lived history.

The work is in the center of the Speed’s contemporary gallery – which also features other works exploring themes of loss and life, like “In the Garden,” a portrait of Breonna Taylor.

Blackwell said the two works interact meaningfully.

“By taking a piece of candy, it not only engages the visitor with Felix's work, but it becomes like a continuation of Breonna to in my mind,” he said. “In my mind, they're sort of intrinsically linked, this sort of continuation of memory and history and persona.”

Blackwell said the green candy in Gonzalez-Torres’ piece was laid out to look like a winding river that ties into the garden theme.

“Thinking of the garden, I was intrigued by this idea of trying to create a stream of green, that sort of, to me, could evoke ideas of nature,” Blackwell said. “We came up with that shape ourselves, using extension cords, trying to just map out what it could look like, and then it was filled in with our many hundreds of pounds of candy.”

The candy can be replenished by the museum staff or can be left to dwindle as visitors take candy. For now, the Speed is letting the candy shrink but Blackwell said they may add more in the future.

The work will be on view at the Speed until next year.

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