January 11, 2008 - Blanton Museum of Art - Blanton WorkSpace: Paul Ramirez Jonas
January 11, 2008

Blanton WorkSpace: Paul Ramirez Jonas

Paul Ramirez Jonas
Wishing well, 2007
Clay, sculpture modeling stand, tele-prompter, speech fragment.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Blanton WorkSpace: Paul Ramirez Jonas
Avra Kehdabra: You create as you speak
November 3, 2007 – February 3, 2008

The Blanton Museum of Art is pleased to present the work of artist Paul Ramirez Jonas for its current WorkSpace–a series that explores new developments in contemporary art by featuring commissioned projects by emerging and mid-career artists from around the world.

In this exhibition artist Paul Ramirez Jonas draws on the words of famous Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges taking the following sentence as a point of departure: “Reading, obviously, is an activity which comes after that of writing; it is more modest, more unobtrusive, more intellectual.” Avra Kehdabra: You create as you speak asks: What action can awaken a written text? Each time a song lyric is sung or prose read aloud it takes on different meanings in response to the context, intention, and personal beliefs of the singer or reader. Ramirez Jonas presents four types of texts: surveys (on religion, labor, and national values), lyrics to the song “This Land is Your Land,” a courtroom oath, and a television speech that can be found in many State of the Union addresses. In each case the text is typed onto thick slabs of moist clay that refer to an ancient tradition of recording the written language in clay tablets in places such as Summeria. Ramirez Jonas questions the meaning of the words “written in stone” and invites the audience to actively engage with each text by reading them aloud. Together, they accrue meaning through the distinct interpretations that each text might suggest to different people.. Ramirez Jonas’s work points to the fragility of written history and proposes how knowledge and meaning are in fact constructions formed in the present by the society that produces the written material. This dichotomy of fragility versus solidity of the written word is highlighted by Ramirez Jonas’s use of clay as artistic material, and even though ancient Sumerian clay tablets may appear fragile, those that still exist will have had a longer life than published translations of the texts in paper, which disintegrates more easily. Ramirez Jonas transforms written ideas into objects and breaks with the convention of the pedestal as a standard base by using common objects as placeholders of the clay tables. These objects become platforms where the viewer activates meaning as they speak in front of them.

Paul Ramirez Jonas (b. 1965, USA, raised in Honduras) lives and works in New York. He holds a Master in Fine Arts from Rhode Island School of Design and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University. His work has been featured at Ellen de Bruijne Projects (Netherlands), Roger Bjorkholmen Galleri (Stockholm), Ikon Gallery (UK), Kadist Art Foundation (Paris), 6th Shanghai Biennial (China), inSite_05 (San Diego Tijuana, Mexico), Jack Tilton Gallery and Creative Time (New York), and the Miami Art Museum (Miami), among others. He currently teaches at the Art Department, Hunter College (New York), and is preparing a solo show at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut.

WorkSpace: Paul Ramirez Jonas is curated by Ursula Davila-Villa, assistant curator of Latin American art, and is generously supported by the Susan Vaughan Foundation and by members of the Blanton
Contemporary Salon.

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