October, 2008, Vincent Ramos @ Crisp London-Los Angeles
Installation view, Vincent Ramos at Crisp London, Los Angeles
Motown Took Us There
And Motown Brought Us Back
September 26- November 1, 2008
Crisp London-Los Angeles
1355 Westwood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Vincent’s Listening Room
by Sandra Vista
Vincent Ramos’ current exhibit at Crisp London-Los Angeles is a room entirely filled with sandbags (500-8tons), the walls containing penciled names of musicians and music titles, and the actual music being piped into the room. That is the literal interpretation. Like many artists, Vincent’s impetus for this piece is centered on a personal experience. The back story is part of Vincent’s family legacy. The loss of one of his uncles in the Vietnam War, (Forest Lee Ramos died Monday June 19, 1967), was what Vincent calls “a true turning point within my family”. Vincent was born in l973 but the “spirit” of his uncle was always around in family stories and photographs of his uncle on the family “mantel”.
The gallery space was formerly a pawn shop and is a very small space with its own “living history”. With the installation of the sandbags and the moist-terrestrial redolence they emit, the space becomes an actual “bunker”. During the opening, the installation evoked Walter de Maria’s Earth Room in New York but after reading the interview Vincent did, with the curator of the exhibit, Natille Harren, Magritte’s The Listening Room, came up in my field of vision.
Magritte’s the Listening Room (1952) is the painting of a large scale apple entirely occupying a room. Magritte used familiar objects in a new context to give them new meaning. He was trying to make sense of absurdities that are interwoven into our daily life—trying to make sense of our “reality” as we see it. ( He also suffered a family loss when his mother committed suicide.) Vincent has an expansive collection of objects, mostly found in thrift stores, that are associated with the time his uncle died-l967. He speaks of trying to find “the truth” and trying to make sense of a “specific time” through objects. This “ancestral holy grail” can be related to Magritte’s thesis of juxtaposing ordinary objects and assigning them new meaning.
The sandbags are reminiscent of war; they serve as a protective shield against the enemy’s bullets. Vincent’s installation can be seen as an interpretation of the weight and size of his family’s grief. The sandbags didn’t protect his uncle. Ironically, now the sandbags protect and defend a nephew and his art.
Vincent states that the research of the period music was originally the vehicle for finding “the truth”. He collected 230 songs that were prevalent to the Vietnam War experience. He reached out to Vietnam Vets that served with his uncle to help him with his research. He said there were only about a dozen “wrong songs” that were contributed by the Vets. The installation became a mausoleum for these songs to dwell. Also, I am reminded of relevant soundtracks of Vietnam War films like Apocalypse Now and Platoon.
Vincent’s inherent motivation for research and fact-finding is infectious. I read that during the Vietnam War the Pioneer Bag Company of St. Louis made 400,000 sandbags per day from 1967-1969. They employed 500 people and ultimately made 200 million woven polypropylene sandbags during those two years. Peacefully, this material was later used for carpet backing.
“…history is not just about time…” Angela Davis