Magazine article Artforum International

Mel Ramos: Albertina

Magazine article Artforum International

Mel Ramos: Albertina

Article excerpt

Everybody knows Mel Ramos as the tits and ass man. But the disdain behind the association was recently repudiated by a retrospective, his largest to date, in honor of his seventy-fifth birthday. Of course his exhibition, titled "Girls, Candies and Comics," featured buxom women on ketchup bottles and in martini glasses. It is the series "The Lost Paintings of 1965," 1993-, "Hav-a-Havana," 1996-, and "Animal Paintings," 1964-71--all of which one might certainly consider somewhat perverse, with their locker-door goddesses lasciviously draping themselves on spark plugs, Havana cigars, or hippopotamuses--that have earned Melvin John Ramos, son of a race-car driver, the sexist reputation that has been such a liability for him. But today it may be easier to acknowledge the humor of these images about images, the absurdity of the compositions, and even, at times, their profundity.

Ramos studied with Wayne Thicbaud, the master of the cake-display case and cheerleader of the Bay Area Figurative School, and then began to draw superheroes from the world of comic books. He transformed these printed figures into masterful, pastose paintings: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle were all painted between 1962 and 1 964, and all appear as seen through the eyes of a true fan and admirer. At the same time, Ramos, unlike Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rosenquist, and Wesselmann--the New York colleagues alongside whom he was being exhibited from 1963 onward--remained true to the script like subjectivity of the brushstroke, giving his allegories of triumph a naturalistic timbre.

In his heart of hearts an old-fashioned painter, a flawless technician, and a meticulous craftsman, Ramos, in addition to the pinups for which he is best known, also created works that speak a quite different language in terms of both content and aesthetics. …

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