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Paul Ramirez-Jonas Postmasters * New York, New York
by Natalie Rivera
New York, New York


paul ramierez-jonas
Paul Ramirez-Jonas, Circumnavigations, 1997

It has always been a history lesson when viewing Paul Ramirez-Jonas' art. This is mainly due to the artist's fascination with historical facts and concepts, and a nostalgia that embraces Americana. One can understand Ramirez-Jonas' love of Americana. Americana represents that time in America when, as a country, we were at our most ideal. It was a time when our nation was expanding in population and land. Inventions such as electricity, light, automobiles, airplanes, and telephones were going to change the world forever. Ramirez-Jonas creates work that deals with this epoch in America's history and the energy that came from breaking with old ideas and the Old World, and making a conscious effort to live in the new. As a result, much of Ramirez-Jonas' work deals with the more obscure facts of American history; plays and reinterpretations on inventions that never really caught on with the American public, sculptures of American icons fabricated out of materials that were America's top exports to the world. Nonetheless, Ramirez-Jonas' work has never been tied down to the seriousness of art academia. Most of his objects are whimsical and display much humor without poking fun of the subject matter.

In Paul Ramirez-Jonas' latest exhibition at Postmasters, he walks away from any subject matter relating to Americana and brings with him his thought process and sense of playfulness while exploring the traditional conventions of how to represent a space in its totality.

From the eight works exhibited, Ramirez-Jonas manages to examine a different way of viewing and mapping an object. In red ball Ramirez-Jonas creates the very top of what would be a red rubber ball over twenty feet in diameter (we get just the very top of the ball so it measures only 73 inches in diameter). At first glance, the object seems very formal but on closer view, you see many footprints from viewers who wanted to experience what it feels like to stand on top of a giant rubber ball. With this, the object loses the high-brow Minimal seriousness one would normally associate with its form, and leads the viewer into experiencing what the artist wants to project: How it would feel to stand on top of a twenty foot rubber ball--or a little red world.

In circumnavigations Ramirez-Jonas creates a self-portrait by having a camera circumnavigate his head leaving the viewer with a continual image of the artist's face, left silhouette, back of the head, and right silhouette.Unlike any other self portrait, the photgraphic distortion of the artist's head becomes a globe in a flattened maplike state. Another work that is related to circumnavigations is terra incognita. With terra incognita, Ramirez-Jonas maps out his body surface with a paper pattern and further depicts the flat results on paper in gouache and pencil. The abstract images we are left with are reminiscent of maps and don't resemble the human body in any way. With circumnavigations and terra incognita, Ramirez-Jonas works with the timeless concept of self portraiture, but the results have very little conventional semblance to the artist's likeness, and bring to the human body, the abstraction that maps bring to terrain.

In the center of the gallery there is a Styrofoam sculpture, little cloud that is a 3-D image of a cloud that could have possibly existed at once time or another. The Styrofoam is layered much like a 3-D image is depicted on a computer and the viewer is able to survey the work and its dimensions. With Styrofoam as its main medium, once again Ramirez-Jonas manages to make a sculpture whose form could be considered organic and formalistic and turn it into an object of etherealness.

The ethereal is what Ramirez-Jonas is after in his video piece A longer Day (for R.H.)". Ramirez-Jonas rides into the sunset on one of those roads in middle America that go from east to west in a straight line. Facing the sunset Ramirez-Jonas rides into the sun for nineteen minutes and manages to add one extra minute into his day. It is a very ironic gesture and visually striking to see the sun sitting on the horizon, yet not setting.

In the smaller gallery there is the impressive installation, "Top of the World", which consists of a circular partition screen panorama of the North Pole. One is able to enter into the partition and get a peripheral view of the North Pole and see the top of the World by standing in the center and revolving. The installation is similar to cardboard, cut-outs of famous personalities that you can pose with, except this is a place and not a person.

Artists since the beginning of mankind have been dealing with visually representing the human image, and the earth around them.This exhibition marks Ramirez-Jonas' unique thoughts and examinations on a topic that we all encounter in our everyday life; visual representation. In recent years technology has brought new ideas about how to represent ourselves, objects, vistas, and the universe. Through mapping, computer-imagery, medical technology, virtual reality, and panoramic photography, the relationship between the viewer's space and relationship towards objects have been changed permanently. Paul Ramirez-Jonas playfully explores this familiar territory while using traditional methods of representation--bringing the viewer along in this investigation to share his eccentric aspect of reality.

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