The Ranch is pleased to announce Daniel Lind-Ramos: SUSTENANCE, an exhibition of four sculptures by the Puerto Rican artist Daniel Lind-Ramos.
Redefining the social charge of assemblage art, the sculptor Daniel Lind-Ramos begins each sculpture by scavenging for discarded objects or gathering gifts from neighbors in his city of Loíza, Puerto Rico that act as conduits for memories both personal and shared. Conjuring images that speak to his local history, its triumphs and modes of collective resistance, his materials often reference ancestral social practices like festivals, musical performances, and traditional cuisine. The resulting sculptural forms are typically figural talismans, communicating the artist’s faith in the regenerative power of communal support. As the artist explains: “Community is a protagonist [in my sculptures]. I am an element of that community.” The final sculp-tures are monumental in scale and meticulous in facture. Ultimately, they derive from the artist’s formal rhetoric that emphasizes composition and symmetricality com-bined with the aesthetic languages of his culture––channeling the diasporic arts of the Caribbean and Afro-Puerto Rican traditions. His sculptural assemblages act as testimony to these lineages, documenting history through the objects left in its wake.
Lind-Ramos is simultaneously faithful to the formal demands of the object. Rather than distort or disguise, he celebrates the affordances of his materials on their own terms through procedures like adorning, tying, sewing, and welding. Of special im-port is the connotative life of the object. In Armario de la Memoria (2012), the plants and produce of Puerto Rico lodge anthropological associations. Two coconuts stand for breasts, while a sectioned palm tree trunk constitutes the torso and legs. This gesture also has historical force: colligating the endemic fruit of the archipelago with a colonial byproduct (the Spanish brought the palm tree to Puerto Rico). Constantly trading between visual morphologies and political adjacencies, Armario de la Memoria also uses a now-outmoded television monitor as a face––linking the display features and cognition of the device to both an animated countenance and the computational brain.
Individual objects are also vehicles for memory, reminding that the inanimate still moves and circulates, finds new owners and retires from old uses. Figura Emisaria (2020), for example, includes a gift from a neighbor Lind-Ramos knew from birth. One day, she gave the artist a yucca grater (a potent reminder of her own distinction as an expert cook). Encased in glass vitrines like a relic, exalted as sacred and in homage to a person tied to tradition, the grater summons the deceased to tell their stories––in this case shared meals and homemaking. Family, like community, is one of the social structures that informs Lind-Ramos’s approach to sculpture. Using symmetry to suggest order and imperfection to denote the lived reality and shortcomings of communication, the artist provides visual cognates for the generational systems that shape and support.
A series of recent sculptures, the third of which is on view in Daniel Lind-Ramos: SUSTENANCE, respond to the pervasive ravages of Hurricane Maria on Loíza. Like salvage operations, the sculptures repurpose detritus washed ashore or torn from homes and infrastructure during the storm, now transformed into symbols for rebuilding. Exhibited for the first time, Maria de los Sustentos (2021) remaps the hurricane along a matrix of Christiological references and pagan celebrations. Conflating Hurricane Maria with the Virgin Mary, Lind-Ramos reclaims the name Mary for the bounty of Christian miracles. Here, an array of objects for food preparation (small coconuts, spoons, a traditional Caribbean serving dish) comprise the celestial mandorla, while a decorative cloth for festival performances typical to the region’s pagan ancestry serves as the customary blue vestment of the Virgin Mary. Upending religious codes and foregrounding the nurturing role of the Mother of Christ, Lind-Ramos manufactures a Mary for post-Maria Loíza who offers salvation in the place of senseless destruction.
Multiple meanings is the native tongue of Maria de los Sustentos. For example, a structure of sliced coconuts at the Virgin’s feet simultaneously represent a food offering, resemble tools for cutting, and allude to the Christ child common to European paintings of the Virgin. This doubling of signs is emblematic of the survival tactics mandated by the natural disaster and the community’s effort to pool resources. As Lind-Ramos remembers of the days following the storm, his neighbors scoured for any useful items to navigate their flooded streets and cut down trees that obstructed paths. Importantly, the figure’s “hands” are composed of blue FEMA tarps wrapped around a boat oar and appended with tools. (The FEMA tarp is today a globally understood catchall for the extreme governmental neglect of neighborhoods suffering from natural disasters, especially in historically black areas like Loíza or New Orleans where insufficient tarps were offered as makeshift roofs and dwellings.) Once again, a matriarchal figure extends protection and sustenance in Lind-Ramos’s sculptural imaginary.
Lind-Ramos’s dexterous ability to tabulate numerous histories at once is characteristic of a central work in the exhibition, Figura de Poder (2016-2018). A towering figure with an excess of appendages, the sculpture does many things at once. Most notable is the apparent conflict between its two frontal arms. While one appears to beat a row of buckets that comprise its torso in musical performance, the other is covered with a red boxing glove. Ready to serenade and fight all at once, Figura de Poder clarifies the resistance and activism inherent to performance traditions of Fiestas Tradicionales de Loíza. Indeed, the figure is crowned with horns that gesture towards the mask of the vejigante––diabolic main characters in the Carnaval performance. Yet the artist’s address of both celebration and physical agitation circles around the often simplified nature of these festivities: while attractive for their colorful displays, Carnaval is also a vital symbol of Puerto Rican resistance against oppression. Lind-Ramos specializes in giving monumental images to these stories: from ancestral whispers and objects that form his present to the battles and pleasures that will remake the future.
- Megan Kincaid
Using assemblage sculpture to evoke the storytelling traditions embedded in his Af-ro-descendent history, Daniel Lind-Ramos draws forth the oral, culinary, and musical history which sustains the spirit of the once enslaved and Cimarrón community in Puerto Rico. The artist was exhibited in the 2019 edition of the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and was the recipient of a 2019 Joan Mitchell Foundation grant. His work is included in the current exhibition Sweat at the Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany1. In the past two years, Lind-Ramos’s works have entered numerous public collections such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; The Perez Museum, Miami, FL; The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland OH; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico (MACPR), San Juan, Puerto Rico; Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAP), San Juan, Puerto Rico.
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