The present work consists of approximately eighty identical black rubber doormats. They are arranged in four ascending stacks, with the highest stack adjacent to a wall. While sharing the same concept of repeated material as in his paper stacks, “Untitled" (Welcome) is not meant for distribution and dissemination amongst the audience. Interspersed amongst the stacks are everyday items serving as forms of mementos: a playing card, a key, two bars of soap, some scribbled notes, and several photographs. Whereas the doormats are public and impersonal, these trinkets placed between them resemble the intimacies of one’s life and the corresponding memories.
In an interview with Robert Nickas in which they discuss the present work at length, Gonzalez-Torres also hones in on how “Someone’s agenda has been enacted to define ‘public’ and ‘private.’ We’re really talking about private property because there is no private space anymore. Our intimate desires, fantasies, and dreams are ruled and interpreted by the public sphere. There is a lot of memory involved in my work, but I want to stress that the formal aspects are very deliberate. As for the welcome mat piece, I’m fascinated by the minimalist work of the late sixties, and I always wanted to work with rubber...how it smells, how it feels.” (Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Robert Nickas, “Felix Gonzalez-Torres: All the Time in the World” (interview), in Felix Gonzalez-Torres, edited by Julie Ault, New York 2006, p. 39) Gonzalez- Torres’ assessment of the disappearance of the private sphere is even more topical today, nearly thirty years after this interview was conducted, with our increasing reliance on present-day technologies and media.
Amidst the photographs of the everyday lie several images which allude to the circumstances of the historical moment in which the work was made and specifically the AIDS epidemic. Namely, in one, a Teddy bear is depicted being gripped by an arm extending into the frame (see fig. 1). Visible on this arm is a lesion: a telltale sign of the disease. Here, the work might be situated as a commentary on the transience of the human condition, Gonzalez-Torres perhaps wreslting with his own mortality.
In his art, Gonzalez-Torres sought to address the links by which we all, as humans, could relate. “Untitled" (Welcome) is a prime example of this exploration. The arrangement of the mats suggests the literal ascension of steps to a door. In a metaphorical reading, one is inclined to believe this to be the bridge between life and life; however, it may not be an ascension so much as a connection between two disparate bodies. Perhaps these spheres are intended to be viewed as the public and private, or the sacred and profane. Indeed, this ambiguity in meaning is the very essence of the beauty of "Untitled" (Welcome): what the viewer takes away from it is entirely their own, subject to their own experiences. By sharing ambiguous totems from his own life, Gonzalez-Torres ensures that we engage with the work via the nuance of individualized personal experience that unites us all.
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