The Changing Environment

Installation artist Sofie Ramos invades JoPro.


Sofie Ramos will be at Johansson Projects until March 11, making changes to her installation on the run.

The traditional notion of art as a self-contained aesthetic object, a handmade microcosm that comments on the world, has diminished over the past century. Cubism incorporated humble elements from real life into abstract collages and sculptures and eventually pushed out into real space, expanding into environments and installations. Abstract expressionism, later, made art-making central and not peripheral to its understanding (notably with Pollock’s dripped/poured paint), leading to happenings and today’s mixed-media audience-participation projects or events.

Johansson Projects, which usually presents two-person shows, will be hosting a residency in early 2017, with artist Sofie Ramos working on an installation in the gallery that began Jan. 8. She will be continuing to make changes through the show’s two-month run until March 11, with an opening reception scheduled at the midpoint, Feb. 8. Ramos rejects “final” readings of art, and perhaps even “definitive” artworks, citing the poet Lyn Hejinian’s 1983 essay “The Rejection of Closure.” That essay advocated the use of formal devices—repetition, rearrangement, gaps—that would enlist the reader in the creative as well as the interpretive process. Hejinian finds the world “vast and overwhelming; each moment stands under an enormous vertical and horizontal pressure of information, potent with ambiguity, meaning-full, unfixed, and certainly incomplete.” The poet is no “guardian to Truth,” and “closure is a fiction.”

As daunting as that manifesto sounds, Ramos’ painted installations make open-endedness look pleasing and even joyful. Her bright, primary colors and simplified cutout shapes are reminiscent of Henri Matisse (who famously wanted his paintings to function like comfortable armchairs for tired businessmen) and David Hockney, both masters of color who worked in immersive environments like chapels and theaters as well as on easel paintings and collages. The gallery press release states: “Ramos stretches fabrics, string, sharp lines of color, and polygonal structures in her physical interactions with space. … She continuously reuses materials from past installations, so each individual piece lives on in newly evolved iterations. Her works exist in constant bold transition and cathartic, intuitive movement.” Living as we do in the “creative destruction” of “late” capitalism, we all understand this ethos only too well.

Sofie Ramos runs through March 11, Johansson Projects, 2300 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-444-9140, 


This report appears in the February edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

Published online on Feb. 22, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.

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