Galeria Nara Roesler | New York is pleased to present Paul Ramírez Jonas: Give and Take, the artist’s third solo exhibition with the Gallery and first at its New York location. For the past five years Ramírez Jonas has exclusively focused on new public participatory projects. This return to the exhibition format will feature intimate and subjective drawings and small objects that have been made concurrently with the artist’s public projects.

Over the last twenty-five years Ramírez Jonas has created works that range from large-scale public installations and monumental sculptures to intimate drawings, performances and videos. Through his practice he seeks to challenge the definitions of art and the public and to engineer active audience participation and exchange in a variety of public spaces. His 2010 Creative Time project, Key to the City, for example, involved 20,000 participants and centered around a key as a vehicle for exploring social contracts pertaining to trust, access, and belonging. Meanwhile his presentation of “Alternative Facts” at Art Basel 2018, focused on co-creating 500 drawings based on individual lies told by the public and transformed into truths by the artist. Multiples based on everyday objects such as coins and keys or the public’s own words, also are a reoccurring motif allowing the artist to question notions of value, circulation and societal rituals or behaviors. 

Ramírez Jonas’ latest series of drawings take the form of ledgers, charting abstract systems of equivalences and exchange rates. The artist links various elements in these diagrams; from pennies to buttons, his own finger prints, and the words “give” and “take” to complete coin-shaped idioms. In addition to their accounting of transactions, the works also address the passage of time, as currency waxes and wanes in lunar-like cycles. These drawings share a formal language with Ramírez Jonas’ public projects. They focus on the small gestures, marks and objects that we use for exchange; and the forms we use to determine value, to keep records and keep both material and immaterial accounts.

Exhibition Views

paul ramirez jonas: give and take -- vista da exposição/exhibition view -- galeria nara roesler | new york, 2018 -- foto/photo Will Wang © cortesia do artista e/courtesy of the artist and galeria nara roesler

Critical Essays

  • sliding puzzles or the logic of the drive

    sara nadal-melsió
    In Give and Take, Ramirez Jonas presents the visitor with a speculative, funny and lighthearted experiment that gives us a glimpse into the interdependence between compulsion and form, between demand and choice. The artist takes, once more, the role of the scientist or collector and transforms his studio into a laboratory that artificially isolates the drive that structures the exchange economies at the center of his public artworks. All the pieces in the show are sourced from the remainders of earlier works accumulated over time in the artist’s studio. Alone in his workspace, Ramirez Jonas has now become his own audience or public, a detached observer of the drives embedded in the exchange economies he has spent a career constructing. There is something strikingly impersonal in the exercise, a taxonomical impulse that the artist balances by including traces of the personal and singular—fingerprints, handwriting, small smudges on the surface of the paper. The drive emerges here as a resistant mechanism that reconfigures the relation between the private and...