Paul Ramírez Jonas
b. 1965, California
Paul Ramírez Jonas was born in 1965 in Pomona, California, and raised in Honduras. He earned a BA in studio art from Brown University (1987) and an MFA in painting from Rhode Island School of Design, Providence (1989). Ramírez Jonas’s work ranges from large-scale public installation and monumental sculpture to intimate performance, video, and drawing, and traces the universal aspiration to an elusive perfect world. From driving west in pursuit of the sunset (Longer Day, 1997), to recreating failed flying machines (various projects, 1993–94) and transcribing the communications of the Apollo space mission (Men on the Moon, Tranquility, 1990– ), his practice is characterized by a bracing, albeit nostalgic, idealism rooted in a faith in human resilience. Sensitive to the processes of globalization, he reveals its simultaneous tendencies towards interdependence and exclusion.
Exploring the parallels between various public gathering spaces, Ramírez Jonas’s drawing series Admit One (2010–13) and Assembly (2013) chart a typology of assembly halls, churches, cinemas, stadiums, and theaters that underscore the fundamental nature of the human need for connection. In The Commons (2011) and Ventriloquist (2013), the artist revived the monument (here the equestrian statue and the portrait bust, respectively) as a vehicle for communication by replacing the form’s immutable granite or marble with cork—a material that is both degradable and the traditional medium of community noticeboards. Key to the City (2010) was a citywide intervention in which twenty-five thousand keys to private or normally inaccessible spaces throughout New York City were bestowed on certain individuals in a special ceremony, revealing that culture can still be a freely shared experience, while also highlighting the increasing privatization of urban space.
Ramírez Jonas has had solo exhibitions at Artists Space, New York (1990); White Columns, New York (1992); Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas (2007); Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2008); and the Pinacoteca do Estado, São Paulo (2011). Selected group exhibitions include Fluxus Attitudes, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1992); inSite_05, San Diego and Tijuana (2005); The Quick and the Dead, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2009); Barely There (Part II), Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit (2011); Caribbean: Crossroads of the World, El Museo del Barrio, New York (2012); and Shine a Light 2013, Portland Art Museum (2013). He has also taken part in the Johannesburg Biennial (1995); Seoul Biennial (2000); Shanghai Biennial (2006); São Paulo Biennial (2008); and Venice Biennale (2009). His honors include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (1991), Art Matters Foundation (2009), and Joan Mitchell Foundation (2009), as well as a Howard Foundation Fellowship (2009). Ramírez Jonas lives and works in New York.