Mel Ramos (American, 1935-2018)
Born on July 24, 1935 in Sacramento, CA, Ramos, like Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, found inspiration through the comic books Wonder Woman and Superman growing up and later pinup posters. He went on to study art under Wayne Thiebaud at Sacramento State College where he earned both his BA and MA degrees. He was an art professor at California State University, East Bay from 1966-1997 and retired an emeritus professor.
Mel Ramos is an internationally known Pop artist often painting images of voluptuous nudes and superheroes. Many of his works are satirical tributes to paintings in art history or demonstrate the sexualization of advertising. Often, Ramos will draw a general nude figure only to substitute a specific face, often taken from a photograph. Mel Ramos’s provocative, humorous paintings mix idealized nude women with the imagery of popular culture—Coca Cola bottles, movie posters, and the like. A prolific artist from his emergence in the 1960s onward, Ramos has often based his nudes on the female celebrities of the day, from Marilyn Monroe to Scarlett Johansson. His style references the sensuality and glossy flatness of pin-ups and Playboy spreads and has drawn the ire of feminists and art critics alike, despite Ramos’s assertion that his works are “apolitical”. Though clearly aligned with Pop art in his appropriation of imagery from mass media and consumer products, Ramos calls his practice rooted in Surrealism and its emphasis on “absurd conjunctions”—in his case, a beautiful nude woman emerging from a Snickers wrapper or lounging seductively in a banana split.
In 2011, Ramos was the subject of a major survey at the Albertina in Vienna. His first hometown retrospective, “Mel Ramos: 50 Years of Superheroes, Nudes, and Other Pop Delights,” followed at Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum in 2012.
His work can be found in the permanent collections of such prestigious institutions as New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Whitney Museum of American Art. Beyond NYC, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, also hold his works.