Carlos and The Thin White Duke: The Art of Carlos Ramos
Fresh on the heels of his successful exhibit Kubrick, Carlos Ramos finds his muse in the Thin White Duke himself, and the result is "Bowie", another stunning and unique show paying homage to an artistic hero. It's no surprise that David Bowie lends himself to a painter's imagination. Like Kubrick, Bowie was a versatile game-changer who covered a ton of ground and always managed to stay three steps ahead of his audience. Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane are just a handful of Bowie's artistic creations, not to mention his explorations into film, and hence there's a wealth of source material for Ramos to play with. In Bowie, Ramos portrays all sides to the great man, and computer uploads simply won't suffice--this show must be seen to be appreciated in full. Here Carlos expands on why Bowie is as awesome as his legacy indicates, and why after a sudden burst of inspiration Ramos knew that the musical chameleon would provide the perfect follow up to his last show. Bowie opens Friday, October 15th at Rotofugi Gallery.
Platinum Cheese (PC): As always, the fan in me needs to know. What's your favorite Bowie album and why?
Carlos Ramos (CR): Hmm, the snob in me wants to say Aladdin Sane for all it's innovations and beautifully constructed songs and probably has my favorite song of his, Drive in Saturday but I'm gonna have to go with The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust. The kind of album you take to your deserted island.
PC: How about your favorite Bowie album artwork?
CR: Low! The image is so striking. The gorgeous oranges. His bony white face. An alien on Mars. Absolutely incredible art direction that compelled me to do an homage to it (of course).
PC: When did you first get into Bowie? How did he shape your impression of music in general?
CR: Well, admittedly I think I only really became obsessed around 5 years ago after having the vinyl played for me by my girlfriend at the time. The artwork, the sonic quality and his amazing voice is an experience unique only to him as an individual verses whole bands like The Beatles, Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin. I mean, he's always been a staple in music history but it might have been the first time I took his music in as an experience.
PC: Where do you feel he stands in the canon of modern music?
CR: Bowie transcends musical categories. He has become a historical force as a songwriter and front man and icon but more importantly his personality and unique existence makes him almost a character of fiction like Captain Kirk or Salvador Dali.
PC: What drew you to him when selecting your next subject to paint?
CR: I really can't tell you. I just remember painting one day and Drive in Saturday came over my speakers (I blast a lot of music when I work) and I just stood up straight and said to myself, "Bowie. Fuckin' Bowie." And ever since couldn't shake the idea.
PC: Which of Bowie's personality traits do you identify most with?
CR: I love the Man Who Fell to Earth. In my opinion not a great movie but he's incredible in it. You really believe he's a visitor from another planet almost looking like a perfect mannequin at times. I guess I associate with the alien view of observing people sometimes. Just standing in line at Costco can make you doubt you're the same species as those around you.
PC: Does Carlos Ramos have any alter egos in the vein of the Thin White Duke or Ziggy Stardust?
CR: No way! If anything I think I've found my way through life by being more honest as time goes on. Alter egos and secrets are exhausting to live with or hide behind.
PC: Based on the previews of your upcoming show, you've drawn attention to the fact that for nearly every phase of his career, Bowie himself was the artwork around which his concepts were centered (as opposed to say Pink Floyd or Radiohead, where the artwork almost exists in lieu of the band). In that regard Bowie is as much as subject as he is a creator. Do you ever incorporate this sentiment into your own work, meaning does Carlos Ramos ever take Carlos Ramos as his subject?
CR: No, not for the most part. I think my creativity and passion lye in the fact that I spent my entire youth soaking-up pop culture and it's all in there swimming around in my head. I have no brain for math, reading maps, names or dates but I can recall most Simpsons lines ever written. But I will say that in my darker moments an alter ego character has popped-up here and there in pieces (enclosed).
PC: Have you chosen to portray any of Bowie's latter day efforts or phases, or like many other fans, does his reign of brilliance stop with Scary Monsters for you?
CR: Haha, yeah I know what you mean. In my humble opinion I felt that Bowie's interests went from focusing on music in his youth and then to acting. All the great musical personas continued on in films like Jim Henson's Labyrinth and Tony Scott's The Hunger.
PC: Have you ever recorded any music of your own? If not, what kind of music would Carlos Ramos create?
CR: I have no abilities to play music but own a ton of instruments in failed attempts that have been going on since accordion lessons when I was 9. I've always wanted to play but could never get my fingers to work. It seriously bugs me. But years ago on my series The X's I got to work with the incredible composer, Shawn Patterson and the years I got to spend sitting on his floor coming up with a sound might be some of the most rewarding moments of my career. A luxury to have a genius musician being paied to listen to your crazy ideas.
But left to my own devices I would probably make bad Beatles rip-off music.
PC: If you were to do another show based on another artist's output, which artist would you choose?
CR: That's the question isn't it? I really am spent after tackling Kubrick and Bowie. And the sad thing is as a painter who's is a filmmaker that can match Kubrick? Or a musical icon that can match Bowie?! I doubt they exist.
PC: What's next for Carlos Ramos?
CR: Something completely different. Or possibly another Natural History Museum? Thanks Carlos! Be sure to check out Bowie at Rotofugi Gallery this October. For more information about Carlos Ramos and his artwork, visit TheCarlosRamos.com.