Chuck Ramirez American, 1962-2010

The exhibition “Bean & Cheese offers an entrée into exploring other processes and overarching themes in Ramirez’s work, such as his sophisticated sense and use of humor, as well as the uncanny and unexpected injections of social critique and emotion into his clinical, point-blank portraiture. Bean & Cheese, Ramirez’s International Artist-in-Residence Program exhibition at Artpace (March 14–May 12, 2002), brought together a pristine body of images treated with the precision and sterility of a commercial food photographer. Curated by Jérôme Sans, the installation of work celebrated the allure and gloss of canned photography and canned goods—underscoring the generic nature of these products. Working at Ralph Smith Photography, a commercial photography studio in Houston, Texas, Ramirez produced 17 photographs, including 12 mid-sized images of raw meat, two large-scale photographs of empty candy trays, large-scale images of fruit cocktail and green peas, and the poignant photograph Whatacup, which reads “When I am empty, please dispose of me properly.” On a table, text from 10 processed food ingredient lists is isolated, cropped, and enlarged to a level of legibility unknown to the average consumer. In other works at the 2002 Artpace exhibition, it is clear that although logos, mottos, prices, and one-liners are distilled from the grocery ad imagery, text has not completely left the picture. Object labels in the exhibition problematize the images in question, sometimes unpacking jokes. A lump of hamburger meat titled Ground Chuck, (with pun intended) presents a lump of hamburger meat for all to see what Chuck is really made of. Viewers are challenged to look twice in the grocery aisles and read the fine print. We are also left to ponder if Lengua (tongue) is really harder to stomach than generic, processed mystery foods. Hayes, Edward, "Of Daily Bread and Breakfast Tacos, Chuck Ramirez: All This and Heaven Too," McNay Art Museum, 2017.