Gustavo Ramos Rivera ~ Mexico / California

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Roberto Trujillo, "Unique and Limited-Edition Artists' Books," Gustavo Ramos Rivera (catalog produced by Anne Kohs & Associates, Inc, 2006): "Gustavo Ramos Rivera is perhaps most often classified as an Abstract Expressionist; any review of his work in its multiple genres, however, reveals much more than that. While his primary medium is painting on canvas, Ramos Rivera is also a noted printmaker, and works extensively with monotype. He combines drawing, painting, and collage to create unique works on paper, and this activity is carried over in his enthusiasm in making artist' books. The book form, unlike a painting or a print, allows a more intimate relationship with the reader. An artist' book offers a variety of experiences: the feel of the binding and paper, the meaning of the text, and the appreciation of the artwork that enriches it."
One-of-kind artist's books by Rivera  

Tango de la Cicatriz
Epigrama de Fin de Siglo

Poema de Juvenal Acosta
Monoimpresiones de Gustavo Ramos Rivera
Introducción de Alberto Blanco

Tango of the Scar
An end of the century epigram

Poem by Juvenal Acosta
Monoprints by Gustavo Ramos Rivera
with an introduction by Alberto Blanco
San Francisco: Ediciones Tarumba, 1996. Edition of 22.

18 x 23 x 1.5"; 9 leaves. Five monoprints: collaged and handworked by the artist; printed with colored etching inks on plexiglass then pressed with a dry point plate of aluminum. Images printed on white Twin Rocker feather deckle heavyweight handmade printing paper, made by Twin Rocker Mill (Brookston, Indiana). Text letterpress printed on Rives BFK paper in Monotype Poliphilus and Blado by Peter Rutledge Koch, assisted by Richard Seibert. Laid in a lined portfolio box, hand painted by the artist. Paper size is 16 x 21". All plates have been effaced and cancellation proofs have been pulled. Edition of 22: 11 in English; 11 in Spanish (plus one publisher's proof, one printer's proof, one poet's proof, and one artist's proof). This is a copy in Spanish.

Alberto Blanco, introduction: "... in this portfolio, poetry and painting come together, like sea and sand, and the result is neither the one nor the other, but the mystery that begins there, where opposite poles touch; there, where the borders of the scar meet and kiss; ...

" ... if it weren't so evident that the poem by Juvenal Acosta and the monoprints by Ramos Rivera are an end-of-the-century cry - a renewed howl from the millennium's end - we would think that this was only an innocent work of art.

"But, is there such a thing as an innocent work of art? No, because a work of art is a wicked proposal that is at once both an arrival and a departure, and Tango of the Scar is no exception: it is indeed a poem that moves in different directions. It is a poem for the end of the century, for the end of the millennium; but also a poem for the beginning of the millennium, the beginning of the century."

"In this portfolio where the poems came first and the images, the monoprints of Gustavo Ramos Rivera are that and more. These monoprints are a palimpsest of apparitions on handmade paper: a line traced with pencil, quilled pen, or with the stroll of a paintbrush; the collage follows with its textures as pieces of paper are attached, including, of course, the printed original poem; then the watercolors and etching inks on plates of plexiglass; and finally the pressing of the paper against a dry point plate of aluminum that transforms the monoprint into a coherent entity larger than the sum of its parts."

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Ten Nahuatl Poems
from Sixteenth Century chronicles
with Monoprints
By Gustavo Ramos Rivera
San Francisco: Aurobora Press, 1992. This suite of ten is issued in a numbered edition of 25, plus two publisher's proofs, one artist's proof, one museum proof, and one archival proof. Total impressions: Thirty suites of 10. This copy is the Artist's Proof.

16.75 x 21.125 x 2" (box), 15.5 x 19.75" (paper); ten folios plus colophon and title page. Ten monoprints hand printed by the artist. Each monoprint printed on paper handmade by David Kimball at Magnolia Editions (Oakland, California). Text printed with Centaur type on BFK Rives paper by Alan Hillesheim at Digger Pine Press (Berkeley, California). Laid into a portfolio box lined with Japanese chiri paper and covered with Mexican amate paper. Each monoprint signed by the artist. Each suite signed by the artist and the master printer on the colophon.

Each folio contains a separate monoprint inspired by a poetic fragment by Nahuatl-speaking poets excerpted from 16th-century transcriptions by Spanish missionaries. The poetry appears on the interior page of the folio in both Nahuatl and English. [Nahuatl, the language of the people popularly known as Aztecs, has been spoken in Mesoamerica since at least the 7th century CE.]

Colophon: "Published on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the first meeting between Europeans and the inhabitants of the New World. Artwork by Gustavo Rivera. Text by Nahuatl-speaking poets excerpted from the transcriptions of the Spanish missionaries, Friars Bernardino de Sahagun, Adres de Olmos, Toribio de Benavente, Motolinia, and other informants, who between the years of 1524 and 1585 chronicled the wealth of Nahuatl poetry which survived the Conquest of Mexico. Edited and translated by Michael Dunev."

Miguel Leon Portilla, "Flower and Song: Poetry" from Nahuatl Philosophy (quoted on the reverse of the title page of this suite): "One of the most profound of Nahuatl metaphors 'Flowers and Songs,' is repeated countless times throughout Nahuatl poetry as being the highest form of expression upon earth. Considered in essence to be the only way through which Truth could be expressed, this concept was so significant to the Nahuas, that 'poetic knowledge coming from the interior of Heaven,' was the key with which to penetrate the realm of Truth. Indeed it can be stated that all of Nahuatl thought had its roots deep in the wellstream of poetry."

Roberto Trujillo, "Unique and Limited-Edition Artists' Books" in Gustavo Ramos Rivera: "Much of Ramos Rivera's art clearly evinces his experiences and cultural background from Mexico, and this is most evident in his work for the portfolio Xochitl in Cuicatl. ...

"Ramos Rivera has always loved poetry. He told me of the ways that poetry and poets have affected his work. ... For Ramos Rivera, the processes of creating art and writing poetry are similar: 'Relationships between images and language are very interesting to me. Some sentences in poetry are like condensed paintings. Haikus, for example - you hear in the rhythm of the words the drop of water, or the bird that flew away. And the same thing happens in painting, only visually.'"

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Roberto Trujillo, "Unique and Limited-Edition Artists' Books" in Gustavo Ramos Rivera (2006), the first comprehensive catalog of the artists' work: "This series of unique books was first created by Ramos Rivera in 2003. Using the traditional codex format, Ramos Rivera begins many of these books with long strips of colored construction paper, to which he adds ink and colored pencil drawings, painted and pastel images, and collage element that include pieces of printed papers with stamped or written lines of text. On the covers, which are fabricated by Kathryn Kain, Ramos Rivera adds hand-stamped or hand-written title with drawing and bits of collage."

By Gustavo Ramos Rivera
San Francisco, California: Gustavo Ramos Rivera, c 2003.

7 x 7"; 14 pages. Double-sided accordion structure. Images and text employ ink, colored pencil, paint, and pastels. Green paper-covered boards with matching raffia ties.

With child-like drawing and snippets of text Perfect juggles grand questions across its pages. In "a world dreams invented but no one should own … is there anything more perfect than fresh water & song?" "What do animals & things know that philosophers don't?" "How come poets are unhappy if they only play with words?" (As if he had to ask.)

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Gustavo Ramos Rivera Out of Print Titles:

God's Dogs
By Gustavo Ramos Rivera
San Francisco: Gustavo Ramos Rivera, 2007. One-of-a-Kind.

5.25 x 7"; 16 pages. Double-sided accordion structure. Ink, colored pencil drawings, painted and pastel images. Collage elements. Raffia ties. English and Spanish text.

Phrases and images like dogs of war stomp across the pages.

"We are Animals at War"

"here is your front row seat for the death show"

"Casa de los muertos tristes"



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Moby Dick Redux
By Gustavo Ramos Rivera
San Francisco: Gustavo Ramos Rivera, 2007. One-of-a-Kind.

5.25 x 7"; 16 pages. Double-sided accordion. Ink, colored pencil drawings, stamps, painted and pastel images. Collage elements. Paper covered boards with string tie closure. English text with a few Spanish phrases.

"This is the American whale that devours everything that gets in her way."

"What are we going to do with all the myths we killed?"



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Page update: 06.15.15


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