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Meet Jason Ramos of Eastside International (ESXLA) in East of Downtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jason Ramos.

Jason, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
As an artist of modest privilege and without a brand name MFA, I felt obliged to create a space where contemporary art by underrepresented artists at the ground level could be exhibited. I took over RAID Projects in 2010 and in 2014 turned it into Eastside International with Michelle Handel and Molly Shea. I remain as the director and the only totally active founder. Eastside is not a commercial gallery (we don’t sell art work) and is more accurately identified as an artist-run, post-capitalist kunsthalle and international artist residency. Like most artist-run initiatives, we remain mostly unknown and unacknowledged by the moneyed art world at large. Artists initiating activity for the sake of art itself and the dialog about art — those who volunteer to produce and maintain a contemporary culture and seek to inspire further dialog — this is what is supposed to justify the inflated monetary value of art in our society.

The vast majority of artists do not make a living from their art, do not have gallery representation, and have lives and jobs in addition to their practice, and always will. Many, such as myself are tenuously employed as adjunct/contingent/part-time college and university faculty, an issue deserving of its own magazine article. While the public relations battle in the art world is routinely won by cathedrals of capital like the Broad, the Marciano, MOCA and other million dollar institutions, Eastside provides an example of art at the level of most practicing artists, both in our non-commercial exhibition program and our open application international residency program. Eastside generates enough revenue to sustain but does not generate sufficient profit for me to commit to it full-time or hire employees. I view Eastside as a form of community service to the working artist community that comprises its audience, akin to political activism, church volunteering, PTA participation, etc. We identify with other spaces and initiatives in LA such as Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Monte Vista Projects, PøST and others.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The world of art is dominated by capital wealth and the overwhelming noise of PR firm-bought marketing from the larger institutions and commercial galleries. The art world reflects the structure of the nation and world at large in the sense that it is mostly an aristocracy pretending to be a meritocracy. Rising costs, rents, and lack of real institutional or government support makes the continued existence of Eastside an ongoing gamble and struggle. In many ways, Eastside exists in opposition to art world a large, and ideally represents a vision of what a ‘post-capitalist’ art world may look like. Eastside rejects the notion that artists must engage in obnoxiously careerist, ass-kissing sycophancy to survive or thrive, despite the continual rewarding of such behavior in the art world at large.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
The exhibition program strives to provide a non-commercial, alternative venue for artists. We do not represent artists or try to sell their work. From a curatorial point of view, Eastside wishes to be a venue for underrepresented artists. For me, if one is being honest about that as an agenda it will include many women artists, artists of color, LGBTQI artists, immigrant artists, etc. Our international residency program is open application and fee-based. Many of the artists that are accepted have received an award or fellowship from a government program in their home country, a rarity here in the States. The AIR program strives to make the ideal of Eastside an international concern, hosting artists from all over the world who are then immersed in the working artist scene of Los Angeles.

What were you like growing up?
I grew up in Converse, Texas, a suburb of San Antonio. My father was a painter, my mother painted, my maternal grandmother was a painter, as were two of my aunts. It was not the source of their income, except in my grandmother’s case in her final years. Based on my experiences observing them, I took to drawing from comic books and discovered contemporary art in community college. That has been my main interest since then.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Eastside International, Christina Quarles, Gabby Collins-Fernandez, Cheyenne Julian, Daniela Campins, Sally England, Kyla Hanson, Jackie Rines, Erika Ostrander,  McGhee, Michael Shaw, Todd Gray, Lita Albuquerque, Kimberly Morris, Martin Durazo, John K. Chan, Glen Wilson

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