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Winnipeg
Luther Konadu
Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa at Plug In ICA
June 20, 2018

Think of a prequel scene to Home Alone, one where Kevin McCallister is an infant and has barely been potty trained. All he knows how to do is giggle carefreely, make a huge mess, and occasionally mutter “ma-ma.” He still has the same beleaguered parents who are either preoccupied with his other four siblings or just too busy doing who knows what while baby Kevin brews up his future plans to take revenge on the home invaders he foresees visiting him when the same parents forget to take him along on a family trip years down the road. This won’t be a stretch of a comparison when you walk into Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa’s Shit-Baby and the Crumpled Giraffe exhibition at Plugin ICA. Except in Ramírez-Figueroa’s scene, Kevin’s insidious brain appears to transcend magic. We walk right into a physical projection of his otherworldly plot while also remaining firmly rooted in a tangible reality.



Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Shit-Baby and the Crumpled Giraffe, 2018, installation view

As you happen upon the gallery space, everything seems unhinged, haphazard, and charmingly cartoonish. Ramírez-Figueroa meticulously sculpted the idiosyncratic props that comprise the set he built for us to imagine along with him. We see fecal matter whimsically sprouting and floating in air. We see the white geometric titular giraffe with its tongue sticking out as though to mock us for not being as tall. We see a stork/human hybrid wearing white sneakers and we also see poop all over the floor. They come in vivid oranges, greens, and purples, which makes you wonder what the baby is ingesting. And we finally see the magical baby in question hanging out nonchalantly in the corner, blissfully unconcerned by our presence.

Ramírez-Figueroa uses Styrofoam to achieve the convincing theatre he’s staged to visualise his sporadic and euphoric vision. Shit-Baby can be understood in multiple ways, which is one of its strengths. It sets a scenario for us decipher how we wish, and pulls our brains and emotional responses along a number of tangents. Considering Ramírez-Figueroa’s biography only enriches this experience. The Guatemalan-born artist’s own entanglement with the conditions that uprooted his family into foreign lands is a gravitational pull towards his pervious work. And like many who work in the art environment where an artist’s foreignness become a point of contention to the extent that you fall into the default role as an ambassador, you get exhausted and start to find ways to push your work away from that assigned burden.



Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Shit-Baby and the Crumpled Giraffe, 2018, detail

Here, Ramírez-Figueroa just wants to make art, not give you a history lesson. And he’s done just that. He has flooded the gallery with a sunny dreamscape – however bizarro it comes off. Although he may mine fractured memory to create manic hyperbole, at the end of the day, he cuts more inward than he has before. He relies on the past for feedback without seeming mawkish about it. He indulges in fantasy to pronounce his own fragmented thoughts and malleable memory. It’s unhurried, optimistic, and defies logic in equal measure.


Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa: Shit-Baby and the Crumpled Giraffe was on display from March 31 to June 10.
Plugin ICA: https://plugin.org/
The gallery is accessible.


Luther Konadu makes things such as photographs, paintings, and prints which he occasionally calls art. He self-describes as a transcriber. He contributes content to a publication called Public Parking. Most days his favourite colour is green and one of his goals in life is to never be an art brat. He is Akimblog’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed on Instagram @public_parking.

 

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