McNay Art Museum presents Chuck Ramirez: All This and Heaven Too

Therese McDevitt |

San Antonio, TX (August 31, 2017) – Chuck Ramirez’s large-scale photographs of everyday objects offer a humorous yet poignant perspective on our culture of consumption and waste, and the reality of fleeting life and mortality. Ramirez was inspired by opposing themes—life/death and humor/despair—and by his work as a graphic designer at Texas supermarket giant H-E-B. Chuck Ramirez: All This and Heaven Too opens at the McNay on September 14 and runs through January 14, 2018. #chuckatmcnay

Ramirez’s art explores a personal narrative including his San Antonio upbringing, Mexican-American heritage, and HIV+ status, making the project relevant to Texas and the broader arena of contemporary art and photography. Ramirez’s photographs were created as several themed series explored over the course of his career. For example, Santos presents images of the bottoms of religious sculptures most often used for private devotion. This dichotomy of celebration and irreverence appears throughout the work. Other series, such as Trash Bag, Quarantine, and Seven Days, make the perishable permanent, whether in objects, moments, or memories. In others, Ramirez replaces an object for a person, where photography of a purse or piñata becomes a portrait. Through his work, the deeply personal becomes clinically sterile, and vice versa, yet all of the works explore the human experience.

“Sometimes, if you’re lucky, an artist can help you make sense of the world,” says McNay director Richard Aste. “If you’re really lucky, that artist also helps you find your special place within it. Chuck Ramirez was that kind of artist.”

The exhibition—the first major survey of Ramirez’s work—is co-organized by René Paul Barilleaux, the McNay’s Head of Curatorial Affairs, and Hilary Schroeder, 2016-17 Semmes Foundation Intern in Museum Studies. The presentation includes photographs from approximately 20 of Ramirez’s series; Bean & Cheese, a recreation of one of the artist’s early exhibitions at Artpace San Antonio; examples of video and installation work; nine decorated Christmas trees the artist made for friend and patron Linda Pace; and other unique artworks.

The exhibition checklist is selected from museum collections, private collections, and the estate of Chuck Ramirez.

“Regardless of subject, Ramirez’s images are devoid of human inhabitants yet filled with a deep and palpable humanity,” Barilleaux notes. “And despite the fact that his career spanned only 15 years, Chuck Ramirez succeeded in establishing for himself a significant place among the canon of Texas artists whose work is known and revered far beyond state lines.”

The accompanying 82-page publication places Ramirez’s art within the broader context of contemporary photography through two essays. Curator and San Antonio native Edward Hayes surveys Ramirez’s art as it is filtered through his biography and personal narrative. Writer and curator Elizabeth Ferrer discusses Ramirez in the context of Latino art. Curator Barilleaux enhances the publication with additional insights.

Education and Community Impact

The line between work and play is fluid in Chuck Ramirez’s thematic photographic series. Building on this blending of creativity and commerce, visitors enjoy several opportunities to interact within the exhibition including Christmas Tree trimming, alternative selfies (aka purse portraits), and sharing about first jobs and dream jobs.

  • Tree Trimming: Decorate a tree with Chuck Ramirez-inspired objects
  • Check Your Baggage: Take an alternate self-portrait (or picture of something personal) at this overhead photography station #checkyourbaggage
  • Dream Job: Identify your first job, current job, and dream job as a way of drawing a line between artist and visitor #mcnaydreaming

Community Engagement

Connecting with community is a big part of the exhibition programs and in-gallery interactions. For this exhibition, the McNay is exchanging a traditional member’s opening for a dance party, with DJ JD Samson headlining the event. Samson is best known as leader of the band MEN and for being one-third of the electronic-feminist-punk band and performance project, Le Tigre. Her career as a musician, producer, and DJ has landed her at the intersection of music, art, activism, and fashion.

Día de los Muertos Ofrenda

When Chuck Ramirez died in 2010 in a bike accident, an altar sprang up at his residence with contributions from friends and family throughout the San Antonio art community.  Visitors are invited to both celebrate and remember loved ones by adding paper marigolds, the traditional Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) flower, to a site-specific altar in the Museum lobby. The McNay’s Día de los Muertos altar, created by artist Carmen Oliver, honors Chuck Ramirez (1964–2010) and is on display from October 26 through November 5, 2017.

This exhibition is organized by the McNay Art Museum. Lead funding for Chuck Ramirez: All This and Heaven Too is most generously given by the Elizabeth Huth Coates Charitable Foundation of 1992; The Brown Foundation, Inc.; John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation Fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation; Rick Liberto; National Endowment for the Arts; Linda Pace Foundation; Diane and Bruce Halle Foundation; Capital Group Companies Charitable Foundation; and Carolyn and Allan Paterson.

Additional support is provided by H-E-B, Whataburger; Smothers Foundation; Chris Cheever; Mitcham Partners, LLP; Patricia and Charles Marcus; Patricia and Juan Ruiz-Healy; Katy and Ted Flato; Christopher C. Hill; Penelope Speier and Sonny Collins; Melissa and Kelton Morgan; Lisa Nichols; Ann Griffith Ash; Caroline Alexander Forgason; Molly and Bill Asher; Jim and Dolly Poteet; Emma and Toby Calvert; Lara Flynn and Donnie Thomas; Thomas F. Hogan III; Wendy Atwell; Muriel F. Siebert Foundation; Patty Ortiz and Dwight Hobart; the Director’s Circle; and Exhibition Sponsors.

About the McNay

The McNay Art Museum engages a diverse community in the discovery and enjoyment of the visual arts. Built in the 1920s by artist and educator Marion Koogler McNay, the Spanish Colonial Revival residence became the site of Texas’s first museum of modern art when it opened in 1954.  Today, more than 139,000 visitors a year enjoy works by modern masters including Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The 23 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds include sculptures by Robert Indiana, Luis A. Jiménez Jr., George Rickey, Joel Shapiro, and Kiki Smith. The 45,000-square-foot Jane & Arthur Stieren Center for Exhibitions, designed by internationally renowned French architect Jean-Paul Viguier, features three major exhibitions annually.

For more than 60 years, the McNay has enchanted visitors with its art, architecture, and ambiance. The Museum offers rich and varied exhibitions, as well as rotating displays in the Main Collection Galleries selected from the 20,000 works in the collection. More than 45,000 adults, teachers, students, and families take advantage of a variety of education programs and innovative educational resources.


Tuesday–Friday, 10 am–4 pm; Thursday, 10 am–9 pm

Saturday, 10 am–5 pm; Sunday, noon–5 pm

The McNay is closed on Mondays, New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

Admission to the McNay

Admission is FREE for McNay members and ALL visitors under 20. Entrance to the Main Collection Galleries is FREE on H-E-B Thursday Nights (4–9 pm) and on Dickson-Allen Foundation First Sundays of the Month. During FREE times, an optional admission charge applies only for entrance to special exhibitions. Admission to the McNay ranges from $10 to $20 (for adults) and from $5 to $15 (for students, seniors, and active military), depending on the exhibitions and galleries on view. Current admission prices listed at


For Chuck Ramirez: All This and Heaven Too exhibition images go to: