Juan Miguel Ramos challenges the assumptions that we hold about communal identity. Based in San Antonio, Ramos develops multimedia projects which utilize video, photography, Sharpie® drawings, and text to question stereotypes and to suggest the mercurial nature of identity.
Ramos is a San Antonio native whose multimedia work may be seen as depicting the world of the young Mexican-Americans—or not. While his earliest work seems to examine American youth of Generation X—to which he belongs—his examination of the city of San Antonio, his community, family, and friends are a constant, ongoing theme.
In his most recent work The Banner Project, a public-art project commissioned by the Museo Americano, Ramos has taken a new direction, focusing on memories and storytelling of people from different backgrounds and ages. Their common link is Milam Park in San Antonio and the popular stories that surround it. At the same time, Ramos asks us to think twice about our interpretation of the exterior. His work references memory but disclaims any assumptions the viewer might make about his characters. His streetlight banners elevate personal storytelling while reminding us that the history of textbooks is as subjective as storytelling.
During his residency, Ramos created a two-screen video projection with a narrative soundtrack. His subject is the south side of San Antonio where he grew up. In almost seven minutes, the video captures four scenes depicting four individual characters, each with his or her own monologue. While the first character morphs into a drawn figure, the viewer never sees a photographic image of the other three characters—they are drawn throughout. Ramos has installed the piece on adjacent screens in one corner of the gallery, giving viewers a three-dimensional sense of place. This physical sense is heightened by the video’s mechanical documentation of place, while the drawings and the meanings of their stories reside in the imagination of the artist and the viewer. The parameters that inform Ramos’ approach may be those of identity, but in the end, one questions what that identity is.