The New Image Art Gallery in West Hollywood just wrapped up a solo exhibition, Complejo de Cristo y Vampiros, by Carlos Ramirez. The narrative reflects a highly paranoid and fearful state – a symbol of ultra-violent times. According to Ramirez, it is an examination of the political climate, societal changes, and other such concerns today. He says, “Something’s happening, but you can’t quite grasp what it is, and you don’t know if you should be scared or not.” Ramirez doesn’t offer solutions, he just raises the questions and contributes to the overall national dialogue of fear. The piece that captures it the most is, Strangers in the Night, which highlights two characters that lurk in the darkness with weaponry in hands, one with a ski-mask, and another in slick-backed hair. Their eyes convey the alarm that hovers over them. They stand tall, but slanted, with tattooed bodies and a cross positioned in front of them like a shield for protection.
Like in other of Ramirez’ pieces, the central characters loom larger than life. It is a way to interrogate his surroundings, and it is a nod to his childhood, where people are over-exaggerated and disproportionate in size. Everything about the image looks right and familiar, but the boxy non-human like limbs or bodies communicate something darker than just night. They are big and small simultaneously – ugly and beautiful. They live in the gray and in-between space where his work rests and reaches for balance. This is symbolic of dark progressivism, to be directly informed by the somber landscape, yet turn it into something supernatural and abstract. This is where Ramirez shows true craftsmanship and intelligence, by manipulating time and space through direct observation that baffles the observer. His work is nuanced with such great layers of complexity. For example, if you see a monster-like character, it sometimes represents someone acting like a monster, like wearing a mask, because often people have to front in society. Ramirez also brings in real elements like bottle caps and ice cream sticks into his work that frequently dictate the outcome. By cross-examining the elements, they offer endless possibilities and scenarios, and they become part of the landscape to tell their own story.
Carlos Ramirez’ work is mostly about healing and struggling. He composes with universal ideas that attach to the human condition. He documents the built environment and engages with social commentary, which is why his work is so relatable. If you observe closely you will find things like graffiti, candy wrappers, a juror badge, and any other component that continues the narrative. When an observer participates with his work, he/she connects to pop culture and imagery that is familiar, but must make sense of it on a more intimate level. Currently he is in a group show in New Jersey at the Jonathan Levine Gallery with other Southern California artists like Augustine Kofie, Cryptik, and Jeff Soto, and he is part of a boxed set limited edition print run, 24/7 365 at Modern Multiples with Johnny Rodriguez, David Flores, and a few others. You can also catch him on a panel discussion at the Museum of Latin American Art on 3/3 7-9 pm in Long Beach, which will look at the influence of Frank Romero’s iconic work, and the legacy of social justice and public art today. Follow Carlos Ramirez @c.ramirez2323 and for inquiries reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org