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Paul henRy RamiRez june 11 – july 17, 2010 1

Cover detail: Chunk 19, 2009, 72" x 72" Acrylic on canvas right: Chunk 19, 2009, 72" x 72" Acrylic on canvas

Paul henRy RamiRez june 11 – july 17, 2010

GalleRy DirectoRs David Eichholtz & Richard Barger

130 Lincoln Avenue, Suite D, Santa Fe, NM 87501 | p (505) 983-9555 | f (505) 983-1284 |


LEFT detail: Spin, Pink, 2009 44" x 44" Silk-screen on primed linen canvas

Paul henRy RamiRez:

abstRaction’s   OmnivoRe by Nancy Princenthal

One of Paul Henry Ramirez’s newest series of

and restored to the realm of sensual plea-

images is called “Spin,” but not spin art in the

sure? Ramirez seems happy to have all these

time-honored street-fair tradition, elevated

competing inquiries circulate at once, none

to gallery status by the likes of Walter Robin-

answered definitively.

son and Damien Hirst. Ramirez’s three “Spin” paintings—actually, they are silkscreened

Born in El Paso, Texas, in 1963, he came to

on linen, in editions of seven—are made on

New York in 1991 and, like Warhol, found em-

static surfaces. They are attached to the wall

ployment doing design work for fancy de-

in a manner of his own exceedingly clever

partment stores—in Ramirez’s case, window

invention, with big magnets mounted in turn-

displays for Macy’s, Takashimaya and Henri

table-like devices that allow viewers (wear-

Bendel (the latter two quite luxe). The sourc-

ing white gloves, please) to easily turn each

es he freely acknowledges range from Robert

sizable square work around, leaving it in the

Motherwell to Robert Mapplethorpe (both

position of their choice. Several things are

for compositional strategies, Ramirez says,

thereby made possible, including new orien-

specifically the muscular pressure of organic

tations of the bold black-and-white graphic

form against the constraints of rectangular

elements that comprise each composition

support surfaces); he also mentions Richard

and changing relationships among the works

Serra, again for the use of space (which is

in the series. Novel balances of color (back-

rather more aggressive than Ramirez’s own).

grounds are potent shades of red, pink and

Other easily discernible influences include

orange), shape and line emerge.

Philip Guston and Carroll Dunham, Disney and Dr. Seuss. The paintings of the ungov-

On a more theoretical level, several ideas are

ernable Peter Saul come to mind. Ramirez

put in motion. One is that chance has an im-

also notes the importance to his artistic de-

portant role in determining the forms of art,

velopment of personal events both painful

a notion that has tickled artists’ fancies from

and joyous (an extended struggle with Lyme

Duchamp and the Dadaists forward. Another

disease in the early 1990s brought new sen-

(related to the first by the risk it entails) is

sitivity to bodily reality; earlier, a transforma-

that artists can profitably challenge their

tive religious experience did the same for

own authority by inviting audience partici-

his spiritual life). Ramirez has incorporated

pation (relational aesthetics, anyone?). Oth-

music, dance, lighting and seating elements

er questions follow: How does art get spun,

into his work; more often than not, his ex-

like political events, by critics and curators,

hibitions have involved site-specific com-

dealers and collectors, viewers and peers?

ponents painted directly on gallery walls,

Can it be freed from a buzzing nimbus of

always in relation to works on canvas. Like

current theories and historical precedents,

many artists of his generation, he recognizes


no boundaries between fine and applied art,

a similarly straight-edged stylization. Flow-

high and low.

ering between the dark right-angled dominant forms in the “Chunk” paintings are daz-


This is true despite the sternly disciplined

zling bouquets of breast-like blooms painted

abstract style he has developed. Ramirez’s

in birthday-party varieties of blue, red, pink,

current vocabulary, pared down from ear-

lavender and yellow, plus one or two in fleshy

lier work, is constituted of cleanly defined

shades of pink. Each sunny orb is topped

geometric forms made sexually suggestive,

with a smaller circle in a contrasting color:

subtly, by their proportions, color, and dis-

a cheerful little nipple. All are tethered to

position. Paired circles flank slender shafts.

the canvasses’ edges by lines that draw

Big circles are tipped by smaller ones. The

them into teardrops, and make them slightly

curly, hair-fine black lines and fleshy pink

resemble balloons—buoyant, helium-filled

forms that once flourished still occasionally

ones when they tug upward on their strings,

appear, but, at present, regular shapes and

swollen water balloons when they droop. As

bright, inorganic colors predominate. Flaw-

the lines gather between the viselike grip

less curves, razor sharp edges, and complex

of the black and brown shapes, they form

color combinations are the result of a pro-

dazzling, narrowly ruled stripes. Ironically

cess that is dauntingly exacting. Sketches

reductive representations of gender and race

proceed to graphed drawings, to outlines on

viewed from one perspective, the “Chunk”

vellum, and to painstaking transfers to can-

paintings are irresistible formal inventions

vas, where each contour is taped off before

seen from another—and fully engrossing in

painting; the artist says he draws every line

either case.

eight times. Chromatic choices are tested using a vast archive of paint swatches he has

In early 2010, three works from the “Chunk”

prepared with the care of a biochemist. His

series were incorporated into an installa-

arsenal of brushes, and the orderliness with

tion Ramirez was commissioned to make

which he maintains it, is enviable.

for the Newark Museum in New Jersey. Called “Blackout,” it covered the walls of a

If the rigor of Ramirez’s process is evident in

Beaux-Arts interior courtyard. Each of 12 re-

its results, so is an exceptionally mischievous

cessed niches was painted one of a dozen

visual imagination. In a recent series called

blazing shades that included hot pink, lav-

“Chunk,” much of the white space that once

ender, Day-glo orange, fuchsia, lime green,

dominated his canvasses has been taken over

red, aqua and hot mustard. The walls above

by irregular but rectilinear fields of brown and

these niches were painted black; for the

black. His long experience integrating paint-

columnar areas between them, Ramirez

ings into architectural contexts has contrib-

conceived a kind of hourglass figure, with

uted, Ramirez notes, to the geometrization

a volume of black narrowing to a thin verti-

of his vocabulary, but he also says the brown

cal line that poured through a long stretch

and black forms are anthropomorphic. With

of bright white and expanded below into a

that permission, it is possible to see a kinship

spreading pool of blackness. The propor-

between these highly abstracted figures and

tions of white and black varied, creating an

Scott Burton’s late quasi-figurative, crypto-

effect of pistons in several positions, or of

homoerotic chairs and benches, which have

keys on a calliope going up and down amid

detail: Swash 4, 2010 10" x 10" Acrylic on canvas


Detail: Punch 4, 2009 12" x 12" Acrylic on canvas


a rousing orchestration of all-stops-out color

to the festivity. In an interview for a cata-

and form. A “Chunk” painting hung in each

logue (Tang 2002)1 accompanying an earlier

of three niches, adding a figured melody line.

gallery-spanning work, he said, “the installa-

Ramirez even altered the courtyard’s ring-

tions involve a kind of touching, licking, grip-

shaped chandeliers, fitting them with vari-

ping, and caressing of walls and spaces, and

colored light bulbs that subtly contributed

the forms inside each painting do the same.”

Though he was describing paintings that

suggest flowers and, perhaps, rudimentary

were hairier and fleshier and, in that sense,

people; the delicate black lines of earlier

more explicitly sensual than those in “Black-

paintings appear in these new works, too.

out,” the expression of physical energy has, if

Colors are less assertive than in “Chunk”

anything, reached a higher pitch.

or “Spin,” tending to soft shades of purple and blue. Another relatively intimate series,

By a stroke of curatorial inspiration, “Black-

the “Paint Pours,” are made on circular sup-

out” coincided with an exhibition at the

ports with rounded edges that evoke Fris-

Newark Museum called “Constructive Spirit:

bees, though some are quite small. The as-

Abstract Art in South and North America,

sociation is strengthened by nested bands

1920s–50s.” Bringing together two traditions

of color, each spinning around its own cen-

generally considered in isolation, it show-

ter to mildly psychedelic effect. These rela-

cased a kind of rogue modernism on both

tively diminutive works are freestanding but

continents, featuring artists who undertook

can be shown in aggregated compositions,

experiments with kinetic, proto-Op, pre-

as in the full-scale intervention installed in

installation, and early filmic variants on geo-

2004 at the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield,

metric abstraction. By turns icily elegant and

Connecticut. Similarly, a new series of small

endearingly funky, this wide range of work,

square paintings called “Punch,” dominated

by artists both well-known—Arshile Gorky

by blazing chevrons and sharing the hard

and Louise Nevelson; Lygia Pape and Jesus

lines and bright colors of the “Spin” works,

Rafael Soto—and not, was a fascinating

can be hung in ways that create integrated

frame through which to view Ramirez’s own

wall works.

perception-bending engagements with three and more dimensions. It also demonstrated

The newest of Ramirez’s ventures is glazed

that Ramirez’s heritage is cross-cultural in

ceramic vases, which pick up an interest in

ways much broader than family history.

three-dimensional form that goes back to his “100% Virgin Vinyl” sculptures, shown in

Not all of Ramirez’s work aims to overtake

1995 at Franklin Furnace in New York. Rang-

entire galleries, floor to ceiling and wall to

ing from tiny to moderate in size, subtle and

wall. Among his more intimate current paint-

richly varied in color and surface pattern,

ings is a series called “Swash.” Executed on

and tenderly modeled into shapes that are

small canvases, some just a few inches on

just barely suggestive of human form, the

a side, they feature brushwork that is fluid

ceramic works are displayed on plinths in a

and semitransparent. The patterns are regu-

way that, like Wallace Stevens’ famous “jar

lar but loosely drawn, and include lollipop-

upon a hill,”2 draws together the visual land-

ish shapes in layered multitudes that also

scape around them. Deceptively modest,

1. Elevatious Transcendsualistic: A Dialogue with Paul Henry Ramirez and Ian Berry. (2002). Saratoga Springs, NY: Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. 2. Stevens, Wallace (Oct. 1919). “Anecdote of the Jar.” Poetry Magazine, 15:1. Note: “Anecdote of the Jar” begins, “I placed a jar in Tennessee/And round it was, upon a hill” and continues, “The wilderness rose up to it/And sprawled around, no longer wild.”


right: Chunk 19, 2009 72" x 72" Acrylic on canvas

these vases sustain Ramirez’s commitment to blurring the distinctions between applied and fine art, discrete objects and immersive 8

environments. An artist with an omnivorous visual appetite and an extremely discerning eye, he brings equal measures of zest and refinement to his increasingly broad range of work.


Detail: Chunk 16*, 2009 72" x 72" Acrylic on canvas


Chunk 17*, 2009

below: Chunk 16*, 2009

72" x 72" Acrylic on canvas

72" x 72" Acrylic on canvas


* Chunk 16 and Chunk 17 were two of three paintings included in the site-specific installation, BLACKOUT: A Centennial Commission by Paul Henry Ramirez, commissioned by The Newark Museum and on exhibition from Feb. 17–May 23, 2010.


Chunk 5, 2007

below: Chunk 9, 2007

48" x 48" Acrylic on canvas

36" x 36" Acrylic on canvas

detail: Chunk 9, 2007 36" x 36" Acrylic on canvas


detail: Spin, Red, 2009 44" x 44" Silk-screen on primed linen canvas


four Rotated views of:

four Rotated views of:

four Rotated views of:

Spin, Orange, 2009, 44" x 44"

Spin, Red, 2009, 44" x 44"

Spin, Pink, 2009, 44" x 44"

Silk-screen on primed linen canvas

Silk-screen on primed linen canvas

Silk-screen on primed linen canvas



Swash 2, 2010, 10" x 10" Acrylic on canvas

Swash 3, 2010, 10" x 10" Acrylic on canvas

Swash 4, 2010, 10" x 10" Acrylic on canvas

Swash 1, 2010, 10" x 10" Acrylic on canvas

detail: Swash 1, 2010 10" x 10" Acrylic on canvas


detail: Punch 3, 2009 12" x 12" Acrylic on canvas


Punch 1, 2009, 12" x 12" Acrylic on canvas

Punch 3, 2009, 12" x 12" Acrylic on canvas

Punch 2, 2009, 12" x 12" Acrylic on canvas

Punch 4, 2009, 12" x 12" Acrylic on canvas



Untitled (Paint Pour Series), 2004 Acrylic on convex canvas, Installation view



Naked 6, 5 & 4, 2010

Naked 7, 8 & 9, 2010

Naked 3, 2 & 1, 2010

8", 6" & 7.5" x 3" x 3"

8", 6" & 7.5" x 3" x 3" Glazed ceramic,

7.5" & 7" x 3" x 3"

Glazed ceramic, Black satin

Turquoise and cobalt blue

Glazed ceramic and gold luster

Naked, 2010 Glazed ceramic, Grouping


Paul   henRy RamiRez 24

EDUCATION 1986-87 University of Texas at El Paso SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2010 Paul Henry Ramirez, David Richard Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM BLACKOUT, A Centennial Commission by Paul Henry Ramirez, curated by Evelyn Carmen Ramos, Newark Museum, Newark, NJ* 2009 SPIN, Tarble Arts Center, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL* Paul Henry Ramirez, Galerie Jean-Luc and Takako Richard, Paris, France 2007 CHUNK, Caren Golden Fine Art, New York, NY Paul Henry Ramirez, Galerie Jean-Luc and Takako Richard, Paris, France 2005

Frothy. Flirty. Feely, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2004-6 Paint Pours, site-specific installation at The Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, CT 2004 Seriously Playful, Paul Henry Ramirez, 1995-2004, Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Gallery, University of Texas, El Paso* In Fluent Form, Mary Boone Gallery, New York, NY 2003

Elevatious Transcendsualistic, Galerie Jean-Luc and Takako Richard, Paris, France*

2002-3 Elevatious Transcendsualistic, The Tang Teaching Museum, Saratoga Springs, NY* 2002 Elevatious Transcendsualistic, DiverseWorks, Houston, TX Space Addiction, Whitney Museum at Philip Morris, New York, NY* Elevatious Transcendsualistic, Caren Golden Fine Art, New York, NY 2001 Elevatious Transcendsualistic, The Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH 1999 Edging into Excess, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA 1998 Real Pretty Simple Innocent Paintings, Caren Golden Fine Art, New York, NY Spread, Post Gallery, Los Angeles, CA 1997 Liquid Squeeze, Caren Golden Fine Art, New York, NY 1995 Smack, Clock Tower Gallery, New York, NY 100% Virgin Vinyl, Franklin Furnace, New York, NY SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS 2010 Oeuvres sur papier, Galerie Jean-Luc and Takako Richard, Paris, France 2008-12 SITES Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, on NASA | ART: 50 Years of Exploration, Washington, DC* 2005 Extreme Abstraction, exhibition curated by Claire Schneider and Louis Grachos, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY* Erotic Drawings, traveling exhibition curated by Harry Philbrick, Sarah Kellner, Stuart Horonder, The Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, CT; ICA Portland, OR; DiverseWorks, Houston, TX* 2004 Open House: Working in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY

Photo credits:

Photo credits:

Photo credits:

George Duncan: portrait

Jeffery Sturges: CHUNK 5,

Charlotte Raymond:

of Paul Henry Ramirez

CHUNK 9, SPIN Paintings

All other art work

2002 NYCSEX: How New York City Transformed Sex in America, Museum of Sex, New York, NY,* Early Acclaim: Emerging Artist Award Recipients 1997-2000, Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT* 2001 MAX 2001 – all about paint, curated by Holly Block, University of Memphis Art Museum, Memphis, TN* 2000 The S-Files, Museo del Barrio, curated by Jamine Ramirez and Deborah Cullen The Figure: Another Side of Modernism, Paintings from 1950 to the Present, curated by Lilly Wei, Snug Harbor Cultural Center – Newhouse of Contemporary Art, Staten Island, NY* Points of Abstraction: Recent Acquisitions in The Corcoran Collection, The Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC Good Business is the Best Art, The Bronx Museum of Art, Bronx, NY 1999 Zero-G: When Gravity Becomes Form, Whitney Museum of American Art at Champion, Stamford, CT Parallel Lines: Mix and Match, Karen McCready Fine Art, curated by Barbara Toll, New York, NY Fluid, The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, curated by Henry C. Estrada, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 1998 Biomorphic Abstraction, Curt Marcus Gallery, New York, NY Pop Surrealism, Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, CT* New Visions ‘98: Under Construction, Gen Art, curated by Debra Singer and Anastasia Aukeman, New York, NY* 1997 Current Undercurrents, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY Artists in the Marketplace: Seventeenth Annual Exhibition, Bronx Museum of Art, Bronx, NY* Memory Frames, Austin Museum of Art at Laguna Gloria, Austin, TX 1996 The First Exposure, Gen Art, New York, NY 1995 Ooze, Black & Herron Gallery, New York, NY 1994 Selections: Winter ‘94, The Drawing Center, New York, NY* COLLECTIONS Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC Newark Museum, Newark, NJ Austin Museum of Art, Austin, TX Kresge Art Museum, East Lansing, MI NASA, Washington, DC El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, TX Progressive, Mayfield Village, OH

* exhibition catalogue


ISBN 978-0-9827872-1-2 Price $10.00


130 Lincoln Avenue, Suite D, Santa Fe, NM 87501 | p (505) 983-9555 | f (505) 983-1284 |

Paul Henry Ramirez exhibition catalog  

Ramirez’s exhibition focused on a new collection of work that continues his playful exploration of the human body through blocky, black figu...

Paul Henry Ramirez exhibition catalog  

Ramirez’s exhibition focused on a new collection of work that continues his playful exploration of the human body through blocky, black figu...