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Making labor visible: An interview with artist Ramiro Gomez


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At Public Books, Lawrence Weschler talks with LA artist and former domestic worker Ramiro Gomez, whose collages, cutouts, and paintings aim to make visible the kinds of low-wage labor—often performed by Latinos—that is usually hidden. Weschler recently published a book on Gomez’s work, Domestic Scenes: The Art of Ramiro Gomez. Read an excerpt from the interview below or the full text here.

LW: After you had been doing cardboard cutouts, the next thing you did were your pastiches of famous David Hockney paintings, in which once again you inserted the otherwise invisible people who made such vistas possible.

RG: Yes. You can see that my work with cardboard influenced this work. For example, in my piece No Splash, the famous pool splash in Hockney’s A Bigger Splash has been removed and replaced with figures cleaning the pool and washing the sliding glass door.

LW: You were originally going to call it “Thursday Afternoon”?

RG: Yes. I would work every day with this family and Thursday afternoon happened to be when the housekeeper and the pool cleaner came in. Before the nanny job, I looked at David’s painting one way, and afterwards, I thought: if I’m working in a home that looks just like that home, and if I’m seeing this man clean a pool just like that pool, where is he in Hockney’s version?

LW: One of the things that’s fascinating about David Hockney is the way that, newly arrived in LA in his late 20s, he taught us to see things in LA that we never looked at before, these crazy apartments and so on. He really created the LA look. In much the same way, and at much the same age, you are now taking people who we never notice and doing exactly the same thing, making them visible. But this is not simply a critique of Hockney. Indeed, you’ve talked about how important his example was to you as a young man coming to terms with your own sexuality.

RG: Yes, as an artist, I admire him and I respect him a lot. And as a gay male in a machismo-centric world, I looked at his work as very refreshing because he dealt with the LGBT community at a period when it wasn’t very easy to do so. Non-judgmentally, as if it was no big deal, completely natural. And he just said, “Here, look at this.”

Image: No Splash (2013) by Ramiro Gomez. Via Public Books.