Publication Date

Spring 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art and Art History


Dore Bowen


American Art, Bertolt Brecht, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Queer Art, Queer Identity, Reception History

Subject Areas

Art history; Art criticism; LGBTQ studies


Contradiction has been widely used to describe the work of the artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996); however, it does not fully encapsulate the complexity of the artist’s oeuvre. This thesis turns to the German director Bertolt Brecht’s notion of dialectical theater, which highlights the tensions, struggles, and interplay between contrary tendencies as a way to understand Gonzalez-Torres’s work. When the contradiction that marks the artist’s work is thought of in terms of dialectical theater, it can be better understood as layered and intentional. This thesis examines the necessary dialectical relationship presented in his work through the artist’s employment of theatrical devices that have allowed the artist to navigate the dialectical display of his public and private self. As a result, the scholarship debating Gonzalez-Torres’s work must also be viewed collectively as a necessary dialectical relationship that highlights the artist’s strategic exchange between his own practice and presence. It is essential to understand Gonzalez-Torres’s strategy to allow for the continual unearthing of ephemera related to the artist’s life that ultimately carries forth the dialectic, or tensions, between the artist’s practice and everlasting presence he ultimately staged.