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.