Sofie Ramos makes endless installations that are immersive, decidedly mischievous and always site-specific. Her ideas never dry up and her projects are always growing in scope and scale. The squishy rainbow aesthetic is just the gateway to deep intuition that can punch and sting (in a good way). Her standard mode is “can’t stop, won’t stop,” and it’s about time we caught up with this San Francisco artist. She's coming in super hot for 2018 with museum and gallery shows. Look out!
Kristin Farr: Do you call yourself obsessive?
Sofie Ramos: I don’t often call myself obsessive because I wish I weren’t, but I certainly am. It’s a tendency I struggle against constantly and I often seek processes that allow me to escape from the psychological trap of obsessing over perfection, but I also enjoy when the anxiety of the struggle reveals itself in the work.
My dream is for you to make a never-ending project that you add to forever, like a whole house. Is that something you would do?
Yes! OMG, you read my mind. Whenever anyone asks me what my dream project is, I say an art house—Kurt Schwitters' style more than David Ireland. (No offense, but whose is more exciting?) The studio is already going in that direction as an ongoing art installation, but if I were able to live somewhere and create an installation around myself for an extended period of time (I’ve done it for a short period), things could get really weird, but also there would be an element of utility that doesn’t necessarily happen in the current installations because I would have to live in the space that is simultaneously taking on a life of its own. I’m sure the construction would still be pretty delicate like most of my sculptural works, and would only be suited to me, acting more like a booby trap to anyone else who tries to use or inhabit the space, like a loyal pet that recognizes its owner.
Let’s make that a movie. What are your favorite materials to work with, and which ones do you really want to experiment with but haven’t yet?
I am obsessed with household textures and objects—furniture, blankets, towels, bath mats, rugs, socks, etc. I add layers and layers of latex paint onto soft objects that soak it in and fossilize into solid forms.
I am eager to acquire and work with larger furniture items like mattresses and bathtubs as well as larger household appliances like refrigerators, washers and dryers, etc. The objects I need/want usually have a way of finding me, so I am excited to see how they will appear in my life. I’m also hoping to one day get access to a metal shop so that I can alter these larger appliances and open up many more possibilities with found objects.
How is your work best experienced?
Over time, throughout the build-up process, which is why I’ve been venturing into the realm of video for the past few years. What started out as photographic documentation of my process transcended the physical installation and became artwork in itself—stop motion animation of the activity that takes place in the spaces I’m creating. Instead of presenting a static space as a resolved painting, the video of the variable forms of the space over time allows its' status as Art to dissolve into a narrative of the accumulation of formal and psychological decisions. A video gives the space a memory in the mind of the viewer and adds the temporal dimension that was experienced only by me previously.
What else are you working on now? Tell me about your April show.
I’m working on a million things, but for the show at Pro-Arts in Oakland (opening April 13), I’m going to properly finish a stop-motion video piece and show it as a focal point in the exhibition, which I have attempted several times and only really succeeded at once (the final gallery installation usually takes precedence over the video). It’s a two-person show with Phillip Maisel, curated by Andres from Guerrero Gallery. The pairing is based on our mutual relationship to collage, assemblage and photography, as well as our endorsement or affirmation of multiple permutations of materials as the artwork, as opposed to a single or resolved composition.
I’m in a group show at Swim Gallery in SF opening on March 15, and I’m working on something at Ampersand International Arts in May, and Naming Gallery in Oakland shortly after that. I also plan to head to Brooklyn in the summer for a solo show at Ghost Gallery—my first on the East Coast. Next Year two solo museum shows are planned at MOCA Tucson and the San Jose ICA. Staying busy.
Congrats! You’ve always been “museum level” to me. What’s another dream project?
I’d love to create a functional playground or obstacle course. I’m not that interested in learning how to fabricate sturdy, usable objects, but I am interested in working with fabricators and technology to recreate my more fragile constructions in durable materials. My practice is pretty DIY and I don’t wish to stray too far from this kind of mindset, but am very open to working with collaborators with the necessary specialized skills.
What does your work sound like?
It makes sounds in video form, but I would love to make sculptures and paintings and installations with sounds. In the video, I use layered everyday recorded sounds like clocks ticking and water dripping as well as absurdly loud sirens, trains or road construction, or even made-up noises like lip car sounds and meandering humming.
I’ve had speakers ready to go for a while for this reason, so in one of the upcoming shows, sound will be happening in a similarly collaged style of recorded bizarre sounds. I find this way of working with sound to be directly related to my other making processes—finding, cropping, arranging, altering, combining and layering material.
The videos make it a really robust artwork, so multidisciplinary. Those blue triangles had me hooked. What colors can’t you escape? Which ones do you always use instinctually?
I like to use all the brightest colors across the spectrum, but usually there are color combinations that often appear together. I like to think that these are always evolving, though remaining consistently vibrant and provocative. Colors choices are usually based on the context of what is around and trying to create the most contrast and visual force possible.
Your work is playful and colorful, but there is an ominous, precarious, overwhelming edge. Is that fair to say?
Yes, I’m glad that comes across. I don’t hate being known for a colorful and playful aesthetic, but I really appreciate when the work can be appreciated as something more complex. It’s both ironic and sincere, so I am not upset by any interpretations in between. There is an intentional vibrant and cheerful façade that struggles to conceal an anxiety or uneasiness—evident in a slightly unbalanced or uncomfortable execution.
What other kinds of adjectives or comments do you like to hear in relation to your work?
I prefer words like provocative and precarious, psychological, nauseating, inundating, confrontational, luscious, alive, awkward, rhythmic as well as more direct thematic words like feminine, domestic, material culture, home, interiority, etc. I kind of hate when the work is reduced to the formal and abstract, which are present but not prevailing. One of my favorite comments recently was when someone said that the work is “mischievous."