Broken piñatas, busted brooms, and bulging trash baggage: these are some of the humble topics of Chuck Ramirez’s unexpectedly heartfelt images. Ramirez — who died 10 years in the past in a freak biking accident close to his San Antonio dwelling — captured these banal throwaways in brightly lit, crisply detailed, large-scale portraits set in opposition to pristine white backdrops. The artist mentioned that “ceaseless, compulsive consumption is so ingrained in American culture that we forget it is even there.” But Ramirez by no means forgot: his images put issues — and the individuals who personal them — at the coronary heart of his work. Chuck Ramirez: Metaphorical Portraits at Ruiz-Healy Art commemorates the artist a decade after his loss of life.
Charles Anthony Ramirez was born in 1962 in San Antonio, Texas. The son of a Mexican American father and an Anglo mom who later divorced, Ramirez would at all times grapple together with his heritage. “Santos” (1996), one of his earliest picture sequence, is a tongue-in-cheek tackle Mexican American id that fairly actually approaches his topic from an sudden angle. The images present the bruised undersides of small statues of Catholic saints generally present in Mexican American households. At first look, the items seem like lower stones, however on nearer inspection, “Made in Italy” and “Proizvedeno u Meksiku” stickers seem. The bases are organized and named after Brady Bunch, the sappy emblem of mainstream Americana from Ramirez’s youth. “I was raised as a white boy, with television, not art. I never learned Spanish and though I was brought up Catholic, I wasn’t raised with the mysticism of Latino religious culture,” the artist defined.
After a profitable profession in graphic design, Ramirez started making artwork in his early 30s. At the time, he was dwelling above his good friend and fellow artist Franco Mondini-Ruiz’s Infinito Botánica, a hybrid artwork area and retailer stuffed with Mexican trinkets and treasures. “Like many young aesthetes in the Southwest, [Ramirez] eventually discovered a fascination with all things Mexican and mysterious, baroque and broken,” Mondini-Ruiz later wrote. In the mid-Nineties, the two artists, together with Jesse Amado, Alejandro Díaz, and others, fashioned a brand new technology of San Antonio artists who got here of age simply after the Chicano civil rights motion peaked in the Sixties and early Seventies. Chicano-era figurative painters like Santa Barraza, Mel Casas, Carmen Lomas Garza, and César Martínez had labored exhausting to interrupt into the artwork world and to forge a coherent visible id. But Ramirez and his group wished to make artwork on their very own phrases, and embraced worldwide modern artwork currents over Chicano tropes. Their stance — which consumed and poked enjoyable at their Mexican roots — brought about appreciable controversy in South Texas artwork circles.
Ramirez’s most significant hyperlink to his heritage was his beloved paternal grandmother, Lydia Ramirez. She taught him to cook dinner conventional Mexican dishes and impressed the artist’s beneficiant sense of hospitality and heat, kitschy inside adorning. Affectionately nicknamed “Tía Chuck,” Ramirez was the buoyant heart of his metropolis’s vibrant artwork scene and “a consummate host and avid collector of friends,” writes photographer Bryan Rindfuss. In this sense, “Sedam dana” (2003-2004) is one of Ramirez’s most autobiographical works. Inspired by the splendid Dutch vanitas work he had seen on a visit to Europe, these festive images meticulously re-stage Dionysian feasts with pals, and are an Ja špijuniram-style glimpse into Twenty first-century South Texas life. In “Día de los Muertos” (2003), all components — from the scraps of rooster krtica to the half-smoked Newport cigarettes to the marigold petals scattered throughout the oilcloth tabletop — type an beautiful concord of colours and textures. “Although absent of people,” Rindfuss writes, “the scattered clues left behind evidence something joyous and satisfying: a life lived to its fullest and shared generously.”
In 2008, Ramirez survived coronary heart surgical procedure for an aortic aneurysm. But this wasn’t the first time the artist was pressured to ponder his personal mortality. “I started to live after I found out that I was HIV positive,” Ramirez mentioned. He created “Long-Term Survivor” (1999) shortly after his analysis. The undertaking — which included images of leather-based chaps, a plastic capsule field, and a video of a rotating silver cock ring — bravely and unapologetically examined sexual need and the will to dwell in the age of AIDS. Ramirez mentioned that a lot of his work revolved round his queer id, and his well being struggles infused his images with a quiet sensitivity to the impermanence of life. As author Sarah Fisch mentioned, “His mortality was no abstraction. For Chuck, death was a motivator, a commentator, a constant.”
Death is at the heart of Ramirez’s “Karantin” (2000), images of the wilting bouquets of roses, carnations, and child’s breath that he discovered whereas visiting his grandmother at the hospital in her last months. Together the flowers type a kind of generic kind, however every drooping bow and crinkled petal additionally embodies the sender’s distinctive sentiments, and the receiver’s distinctive life. The artist’s sister, Trish Marcus, remembered him passing the deserted preparations in empty hospital rooms, saying, “That’s not trash, that’s somebody’s treasure.” According to artist Ethel Shipton, “The idea of time and the fact that we all end up being discarded were always somewhere permeating ([Ramirez’s] thoughts as he looked at the world.” Twenty years later, the “Quarantine” images carry a poignant edge: as a result of of COVID-19, most hospitalized sufferers can obtain flowers, however tragically, not pals or members of the family.
Ramirez self-identified as a conceptual artist since his first exhibition in 1995. But in contrast to different conceptual photographers, his work is “filled with a deep and palpable humanity,” writes McNay Museum curator René Paul Barilleaux. His work is soulful however irreverent, coherent however quirky. As Mondini-Ruiz put it, Ramirez’s “was a different flavor of conceptual art. It was influenced by ljubav, by affection and sentimentality that existed in our heritage.”
Chuck Ramirez: Metaphorical Portraits continues at Ruiz-Healy Art (201-A E Olmos Dr, San Antonio, Texas) by way of January 9, 2021.
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