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Paul Ramírez Jonas: Abracadabra-I Create as I Speak at Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
Paul Ramírez Jonas, Paper Moon (detail), 2008. Courtesy of the artist.

RIDGEFIELD.- Abracadabra translates from the ancient Aramaic language as “I Create as I Speak,” and represents artist Paul Ramírez Jonas’s desire to create work that will assert an interactive contract with the public, where one must give in order to receive.

Ramírez Jonas consistently utilizes pre-existing texts, including not only the written word, but also items as diverse as a walking trail and sheet music, in the service of creating new art. The artist considers himself a mere reader of such texts, interpreting the documents into forms such as performance, sculpture, photo, or video. Thus, a musical score may result in a sculpture, and a travelogue in a video, or the plans for a flying machine may emerge from a photo. Reading is the creative and free action that attracts Ramírez Jonas.

He says, “Being a reader, I have more in common with the public than with the author, and it is this commonality that I find so inspiring in working with pre-existing materials. My previous work also uses pre-existing texts; but my role is not as much to ‘read’ them anymore, as much as it is to present them for lecture. It is an invitation to read together, so to speak. Most pieces in this exhibition attempt, in their own way, to reassert a contract with their public. This contract stipulates that the works are here for you; but you must give a little to receive—even if it is just a penny, a wish, or a silent recitation.”

Visitors to The Aldrich’s exhibition can put that penny into a functional penny press machine entitled We Make Change. The viewer provides the muscle and the raw material; the machine re-engraves the penny so that it reads TRUST ME or WE TRUST, converting the coin, which has value in one economy, into an artwork that has value in a different economy.

Other work in the exhibition includes Paper Moon (I Create as I Speak), with the sentence “I create as I speak” repeated over and over again in a 616-page-long text. The pages are pinned to the wall to form a twenty-foot image of the moon, with one page, a fragment of the image, removed and placed on a lectern. The public are invited to read this piece of the moon aloud or to themselves. Well is part wishing well, part beggar’s cup, and part piggy bank. The public can make a wish, throw in a coin, listen to the water swallow it, and hope that the transaction proves worthwhile. Copies is an office wastebasket filled with discarded clay tablets—crumpled, broken, and folded into paper planes. It is a depository of failures, trials, rough drafts that get a second of brief life on their way from the desk to the garbage.

The Aldrich will host a public exhibition reception on Sunday, September 14, 2008, from 3 to 5 pm. It will be preceded by a 2 pm panel discussion featuring ABRACADABRA—I Create as I Speak, at which artist Daniel Bozhkov, curator Regine Basha, and Aldrich exhibitions director Richard Klein will join Paul Ramírez Jonas for a contemporary conversation titled After the Monument. Refreshments will be served. Free round-trip transportation to the reception from New York City is available for members (non-members $15). Please note that the shuttle will not arrive in time for the 2 pm panel discussion. Reservations are required for transportation.

Paul Ramírez Jonas has an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design and a BA from Brown University. Selected solo exhibitions include The Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas, Austin; Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, and Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK; LFL Gallery, New York; Roger Björkholmen Galleri, Stockholm; and Postmasters Gallery, New York. Group exhibitions include the Gallery for Contemporary Art, Leipzig, Germany; Shanghai Biennial; P.S.1, Long Island City, NY; Seoul Biennial; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; Künstlerhaus, Graz, Austria; Johannesburg Biennale; Exit Art, New York; and New Museum, New York. Ramírez Jonas has built permanent public projects in Cambridge, MA, and a permanent public sculpture for the Hudson River Park, New York. His work has been profiled in ArtForum, Zing, ARTnews, The New York Times, and Art in America, among others. Upcoming exhibitions include the 2008 São Paulo Biennial.

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