Jorge Zontal (of General Idea)

1944–1994

Jorge Zontal, born in Parma, Italy, was a co-founder of the artist collective, General Idea, with Felix Partz and AA Bronson.

General Idea, which was formed in Toronto in 1969, exhibited widely in North America and Europe and was the subject of several retrospectives. Each member took on new names- Felix Partz, born Ronald Gabe, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 1945-1994. Jorge Zontal, born Slobodan Saia-Levy, Parma, Italy, 1944-1994 and AA Bronson, born Michael Tims, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (born 1946).

They lived and worked together, each bringing experience and talent in various media. They produced art in many media that would infiltrate and be inspired by popular culture over 25 years. The group developed a witty, slick-looking form of Conceptual art that borrowed liberally from advertising and other art. They were known for their magazine FILE (1972-1989), their unrelenting production of low-cost multiples, and their early involvement in punk, queer theory, AIDS activism, and other manifestations of the other. In 1974 they founded Art Metropole, Toronto, a distribution center and archive for artists’ books, audio, video, and multiples, which they conceived as the shop and archive for their Gesamtkunstwerk: The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion, a kind of meta-museum. From 1987 through 1994 their work addressed the AIDS crisis, with work that included some 75 temporary public art projects. Their major installation, One Year of AZT/One Day of AZT, was featured as a project at the Museum of Modern Art and now resides in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. General Idea is also well known for its appropriation of Robert Indiana's colorful "Love" emblem, which it changed to read AIDS.

General Idea exhibited internationally, including solo exhibitions include: Haute Culture: General Idea. Une rétrospective, 1969-1994, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris and Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2011); FILE Magazine / General Idea Editions, Torpedo Kunstbokhandelen, Oslo (2010); The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion, The Art Gallery of York University, Toronto (2009).

Zontal was born in 1944, the son of Yugoslav refugees. He grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, and in 1968 he earned a degree in architecture at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he also studied film making and acting. 

Zontal died on February 3, 1994 of AIDS-related causes.

General Idea was dissolved with the deaths of Partz and Zontal in 1994.

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