Paul Henry Ramirez Chunk June 6 – July 25, 2009
Jean-Luc and Takako Richard are pleased to announce the opening of Chunk, Paul Henry Ramirez’s third solo show in Europe. This young New York based artist will be showing paintings from his new series. Following a collective exhibition entitled Biomorphic Abstraction at the Curt Marcus Gallery in 1998, the term ‘Biomorphic Abstraction’ has since been used by art critics to describe the work of Paul Henry Ramirez. He draws and paints dynamic abstract compositions using geometric forms that that look like internal and external representations of the human body.
Unlike the fantasies conjured up by his earlier works, which used as their source material the sexuality encrypted in the biomorphic forms of Joan Miro, and the early works of Mark Rothko, and Arshile Gorky, the Chunk Paintings are less jocular, less figurative, more sophisticated in their style and composition. The artist stops using paints squeezed straight out of the tubes. The paintings are perfectly flat again. The new designs are much more graphic and powerful, while keeping their dynamism. He “imbues the flat colors, uninflected surfaces, and platonic geometric relationships that reflect the idealism once thought to be the quintessential expression of Modernism’s search for the spiritual and the essential with titillating sexual innuendos and allusions. The results occupy the gap between the rarified realm of formalist principles and historical references, and the commonplace world of popular culture and social relations.
Ramirez develops his imagery by repurposing historical models. The bold and emblematic geometric compositions of the Chunk paintings… employ deStijl and Russian Constructivism principles. The difference lies in the fact that Ramirez’s configures his circles and bars to form suggestive images transforming the geometric and biomorphic vocabularies of formalism into texts that signify whimsical narratives of inter-dependence and inter-action.
Though Ramirez’s imagery may make us chuckle, snicker, or blush, his intent is not to parody the seriousness or ambitiousness of high modernism’s attempt to reveal the truth that lies behind appearances. Instead, the dirty jokes that result from Ramirez’s simple modifications of the syntax and form of geometric abstraction, actually turn the formalist language of abstraction back onto itself, inverting the un-representable otherness that it originally was meant to express into something worldly. With in this strategy, we find echoes of Duchamp inscribing onto a reproduction of the Mona Lisa the letters L.H.O.O.Q, which when pronounced in French is the colloquialism “she is hot in the ass (or has a hot ass).
Subsequently, the resulting assemblage of historical references, and the implicit political, and social texts concerning sexuality not only are meant to undermine or transgress the transcendental ideals of the modernist models, but also reposition formalism and abstraction by making visible their ability to comment on and to be relevant to contemporary life. As if this were not enough – the addition of the audience’s participation makes explicit that abstract paintings are not merely a pictorial encoding of formal or idealistic values, but are complex things that if armed with a wink and a poke can again position their viewer as active participants in the real world” (1).
At a time when the condemners of the body praise abstinence as a lifestyle, it is in abstract painting that the prevalence of sexuality asserts itself as part of the natural order of the universe.
Paul Henry Ramirez was born in El Paso, Texas in 1963. In 2009 he has a solo show at the Tarbles Arts Center at Charleston (IL). In 2010 he will make a site-specific installation at the Newark Museum (NJ) and will participate in the exhibition “Psychedelic: Optical and Visionary Art since the 1960’s at the San Antonio Museum of Art (TX).
(1) Saul Ostrow : Modernism with a Wink and a Poke, Paul Henry Ramirez ‘Spin’, Tarbles Arts Center 2009