Performance and media artist Anthony Ramos was among the earliest video artists to use the medium as a tool for mass media critiques and cultural documentation, and to examine media presentations of "truth." In his powerful but rarely seen video works of the 1970s, Ramos sought to combine art and activism, giving agency to marginalized individuals and communities. In his earliest black-and-white video pieces, Ramos engaged in forceful, direct performances for the camera, often using physical endurance and actions to confront political issues.
His 1977 video About Media is an incisive deconstruction of television news. It documents an interview Ramos gave to news reporter Gabe Pressman on the subject of Ramos's eighteen-month prison term for draft resistance during the Vietnam War. Ramos appropriates the interview, contrasting the unedited interview footage with the final televised news report, exposing the artifice of television news. He also interjects footage of his extraordinary and unnerving early performances, including Balloon Nose Blow-Up, which speak to the influence of Allan Kaprow, with whom Ramos had studied and worked in California.
Ramos has traveled widely in Europe, Africa, China and the Middle East. He videotaped the end of Portugal's colonial rule of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau, Teheran during the 1980 hostage crisis, and Beijing just prior to the Tiananmen Square massacre. Ramos produced a number of video works that critique the media through deconstruction and appropriation, and explore the relation of mass cultural imagery, African-American identity, and the politics of race in America. In the late 1980s he turned to painting as his primary medium.
Ramos was born in 1944 in Providence, Rhode Island. He received an M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts, where he was assistant to Allan Kaprow. Among his awards are a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship and a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship. In the 1970s Ramos was a video consultant for the United Nations and the National Council of Churches. In the 1980s, he lived in Paris where he was a Professor at the American Center, and oversaw the television cabling of ten blocks of Paris for the first time. He has also taught at Rhode Island School of Design, New York University, and the University of California at San Diego.
His recent screenings and exhibitions include Light Industry in New York (2010); Circa 1971: Early Video & Film from the EAI Archive at Dia: Beacon (2011-2012); The Embodied Vision: Performance for the Camera at the Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea do Chiado in Lisbon (2014); and Anthony Ramos: Vidéo et après at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2014).
Ramos lives in Eyguieres, France.