Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa

Blue Abstraction


Not on display

Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa born 1978
Video, high definition, colour and sound (stereo)
Duration: 7min, 3sec
Lent by Tate Americas Foundation, courtesy of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2021
On long term loan


Blue Abstraction 2012 is a single-channel video with sound of a performance by Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa. Shot in a continuous take that lasts just under six and a half minutes, it shows a young man standing motionless by a dirt road in the middle of a landscape. He is approached by the artist who carries with him a can of blue paint and paintbrush. He applies paint in broad brushstrokes across the clothes and body of the man until his entire form is covered. The video ends with the artist walking away and the figure continuing to stand still. Ramírez-Figueroa’s use of blue paint is a reference to the history of early black and white cinema, which utilised the tendency for the film stock to turn blue objects white by covering figures in the colour to create the impression that they had disappeared.

While the work plays with the concept of absence and presence in ways that seem to refer to the history of abstract painting – the use of the colour blue and the painting of bodies recalling the work of, amongst others, Yves Klein (1928–1962) – the artist has stated that the figure represents his uncle who was an activist in Guatemala and was murdered when Ramírez-Figueroa was six years old. Soon after, his family left for Mexico before settling in Canada. Despite this personal significance, the casual enactment of the gesture and lack of context transforms a historical fact into a universal exploration of the role of memory in dealing with personal loss and difficult moments in history. The artist has explained: ‘Trauma is something that doesn’t fit into the narrative of your life, it stands out, and how the thing stands out, I expressed it through the neon blue.’ (Quoted in Martin 2017, accessed 29 June 2020.)

Curator Catherine Wood has described Ramírez-Figueroa’s work as embodying ‘the cross-contamination of artistic, familial, and political impressions’ to form ‘powerful sculptural images that summon the emotional imprint of such conflicted experiences as a ground from which to grow a world of his making.’ (Catherine Wood, ‘Funny Games’, in Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, exhibition catalogue, New Museum, New York 2018, p.15.) Blue Abstraction exemplifies Ramírez-Figueroa’s use of performance in scenarios that create a contemplative space to reflect upon issues around identity, history and memory. The video can be shown as a projection or on a monitor, played on a loop. It exists in an edition of five plus one artist’s proof, with Tate’s copy being number five in the edition. The first three editions are in private collections in Guatemala; the fourth edition is in the Fondazione Videoinsight, Turin.

Further reading
Matthew McLean, ‘Don’t Go Seeking Answers in the Earth’, Frieze, 14 October 2016,, accessed 2 July 2020.
Betty Martin, ‘Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa’s Color and Tone Metaphors’, online article for Artist Residency programme, 18th Street Arts Center, Santa Monica, California, 2017–18,, accessed 29 June 2020.
Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa: The House at Kawinal, exhibition catalogue, New Museum, New York 2018.

Fiontán Moran and Michael Wellen
July 2020

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

You might like

In the shop