about the exhibition
New Works 02.1
San Antonio, TX
March 14–May 12, 2002about the artist
Chuck Ramirez (1962-2010) lived and worked as an artist and graphic designer in San Antonio, Texas. Primarily employing large-scale photography, the artist's body of work includes prints and sculptural installations. His pieces investigate the rituals and forms of everyday life and are charged with metaphors of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion. Ramirez's involvement with Artpace dates back to 1999, when he first exhibited in the Hudson (Show)Room.
Ramirez's spring 1999 Hudson (Show)Room exhibition, Long-Term Survivor, was an installation of digitally enhanced photographic works. The individual pieces explored the rituals of sustaining life and desire in the context of the AIDS crisis. Images ranged from abstractions of erotic toys to day-of-the-week pill boxes to leather chaps. Ramirez also presented a video piece on three monitors that displayed a spinning chrome ring-a seductive form that recalls corporate logos-against a bright red wall. Working with materials and images that are part of his daily life-a life impacted by being HIV positive-Ramirez transformed the language and power of advertising into a call for action and compassion, expression, and self-actualization.
Prior to the introduction of the WindowWorks program area at Artpace, Ramirez installed this street-facing façade space with a series of slim, netted Christmas trees during late 1999. Like the subjects of his photography, these seven freestanding trees featured everyday items such as spoons and forks. With this display, the artist posed the question: Where is the line between decorative and fine art?
In 2002 Ramirez was invited by guest curator Jérôme Sans, Co-director of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, France, to be the Texas representative for the New Works: 02.1 International Artist-in-Residence cycle. For his Artpace residency, Ramirez used a commercial studio to produce 17 large-scale photographs of items referencing food. The first series of 12 images consisted of images of raw meat-a whole chicken, sausage links, a beef steak-laid bare on the artist's signature sterile white background. Two photographs featured empty candy trays that represented unattainable fulfillment and desire. He also displayed two full-frame images of fruit cocktail and green peas. Taken straight from the can, these fruits and vegetables are magnified to epic proportions; the mixed fruit recalling the complexities of multicultural mixing, and the peas signifying the sameness of humankind. A final image of a plastic cup from a fast food restaurant bears the epitaph When I am empty, please dispose of me properly, a somber parallel between life and consumption.
Ramirez continued his involvement with Artpace well after 2002 as a fundraiser and advocate for contemporary art. During our 10th anniversary in 2005, he took part in Artists Salute Artpace, featuring an auction of works by several former resident artists. His donation, Godiva 2, similar to Double Chocolate displayed here, was a large photograph of an empty chocolate box. Both pieces feature golden trays that once held chocolates yet sit empty, their irregular grids signaling a past function as containers for something else. These poignant reminders of time's inevitable passage reference the traditional still life. They now take on additional meaning as the San Antonio art community mourns the recent loss of this visionary artist.
about the project
As an artist and graphic designer, Ramirez processes and deconstructs the media world in which he lives. His work employs visual and conceptual techniques found in contemporary advertising and package design. Using typography and digital imaging technology, Ramirez isolates and recontextualizes familiar objects and texts to explore the human condition. Always personally relevant, Ramirez has explored cultural identity, mortality and consumerism through his photographs and installations. The images in his 1997 series, Coconut, slyly subverted stereotypes of those who cross cultural boundaries. Yet in more recent work, Ramirez resurrects waste—photographing filled garbage bags, dying flowers, and battered, empty piñatas—reflecting on the fleeting nature of human existence while imposing the will to survive.
For his ArtPace residency, Ramirez used a commercial studio to produce 17 large-scale photographs of items referencing food. The viewer is initially confronted with the stark whiteness of the brightly lit gallery space. Along one wall hang twelve smaller images of raw meat, each immediately recognizable—a whole chicken, sausage links, a beef steak—laid bare on Ramirez's signature sterile white background, emphasizing one of the most basic tenants of humanity: we, too, are flesh. In contrast to the meat, the two photographs of empty candy trays take on a new post-consumer life. Mounted on aluminum, like labels on cans of food, these large-scale images represent unattainable fulfillment and desire. Ramirez also displays two full-frame images of fruit cocktail and green peas. Taken straight from the can, these fruits and vegetables are magnified to epic proportions. The gleaming fruit belies the complexities of multicultural mixing, whereas the peas signify the sameness of humankind. A final image of a plastic cup from a fast food restaurant bears the epitaph, 'When I am empty, please dispose of me properly,' a somber parallel between life and consumption.
In the center of the gallery, Ramirez displays ten prints listing ingredients of popular food items. Only the ingredients are shown, leaving the final product to guesswork. Signifying that humans are what they eat, the prints, openly placed on the banquet table, become a metaphor for life itself being a banquet. Clean and direct, Ramirez’s photographs are consistent with past work transfiguring the grotesque into something edgy and alluring, calling attention to items that seem ready for consumption or disposal.
Previous Artpace Exhibitions
Jan 14, 1999 Chuck Ramirez