The Violent Collage: Work of Ramsay Antonio-Barnes
Several years ago, Ramsay began appropriating images from camping and Eagle Scout manuals to use in his painting. He used these images of Scouts and Scout leaders to look at adolescence, its fears and hopes, its burgeoning sexuality, and to explore how in contemporary culture we make the transitions to adulthood. "The work deals with the kind of sexual ambiguity of the time," Ramsay says, "that awkward coming of age and realization of sexual identity." His painting, Infolding, shows boys in various poses, squatting before a race or wrestling together on the ground. The depictions might seem straightforward enough except for the bloody-colored smear wiped across a boy's face or the sexual tension Ramsey imparts to the piece through the boys' exuberant physicality and evocative poses.
For Ramsay, the knife image is a perfect distillation of this subjective/objective interplay. "The knife," he says, "has become almost an icon for me because it's both something personal, but it's also a compact symbol for bigger ideas of violence or control." In his pocket-knife collages, Ramsay has photographed his Eagle Scout knife and then Photoshopped in images of Edwardian era
In a similar vein, Ramsay has been looking at images of bullfighters, stylized and androgynous, and incorporating them into mixed media works of cut paper and sequins. "In bullfights, you have this very ornate man," he says, "and this display of ritualized murder, but there is also a strong element of danger, things that can be controlled and things that can't." Ramsay has an interest in going to watch the bullfights, just as he attended a night of boxing matches not too long ago, out of a desire for personal involvement: "I wanted to go to the boxing matches to pay, to promote this thing, to be as much a part of it as I could while still being a spectator." Still, again, there is the tension in this work between a sense of individual experience and a stylized remove. His drunk love sculpture, a recreation of his personal punching bag screen printed and hand stamped with the images of men in a boxing ring, has obvious autobiographical elements but something in its size and weightiness is also distant and objective, clearly a constructed object of art.