Current 25: Chuck Ramirez (1962-2010)

Local art legend Chuck Ramirez died November 6, 2010, after a bicycle accident down the street from where he lived in one half of the little duplex that houses Sala Diaz.

The SA designer and artist was known for his sculpture and large format photographic prints celebrating the ephemera of life: chocolate, the remains of a party, a stuffed garbage bag. From the write up of his New Works: 02.1 show at Artpace, “A final image of a plastic cup from a fast food restaurant bears the epitaph When I am empty, please dispose of me properly, a somber parallel between life and consumption.”

He was much beloved by the community. Having survived AIDS for 20 years, it was a bizarre end. In a November 8, 2010, article in the Current announcing his memorial service, former arts writer Sarah Fisch wrote: “This may be apocryphal, three different wake attendees told me that when asked how he thought he might die, Chuck answered ‘Oh, it’ll probably just be something stupid like falling off my fucking bike.’ … The death of Chuck Ramirez proves that absurdity and irony aren’t necessarily funny, and are almost always cruel. It’s so tempting to decide he’s in a well-appointed afterlife viewing all the funerary proceedings and partying with a critical, art-director’s eye, that he never felt a thing, that it was just his time, that everything happens for a reason.”

Many words have been said and printed about Chuck in the last half year. Here are some of his own from 2003, when Ramirez spoke about his work to the Current in an exchange with Jennifer Jankauskas, then program coordinator at Artpace:

“I’m interested in the way we consume things. I’m always fascinated with the aftermath of things, like a garbage bag. It’s something that we totally take for granted and throw out everyday. But they’re actually kind of beautiful objects in their own right, stuffed with all our crap."

“I think the whole idea of creating desire is manipulating. What I do in my day job is to very scientifically, in a very calculated way, convey ideas so the consumer can understand what they’re buying, but also to create an appetite appeal to make them feel good about buying it. I think I’m subverting that because I’m dealing with the idea that a garbage bag is the same thing as a product.”

“My friend at work always brings in chocolates, and we were down to the last one and she said I could have it. I said, “Oh my God, look how beautiful this tray is. This is just as pretty as the chocolate was to eat.” So then I started collecting those things. It seemed to me that an empty chocolate tray also started to evoke this sense of longing or loss.”

Chocolates for everyone. Adios, Tia Chuck.