Martín Ramírez, “Landscapes,” Late works by the outsider-art master surface in Chelsea
Time Out New York – 2012
“The life of outsider artist Martín Ramírez (1895–1963) was characterized by disunion. In 1925, in debt and with a family to support, Ramírez traveled to California from his native Mexico looking for work. He never returned. Hospitalized in 1931, he spent the remaining 32 years of his life in mental institutions. He left behind a body of astonishing works on paper whose images integrated his memories of rural Mexico with his experience of industrialized America. But Ramírez’s artistic legacy was broken into two parts: the work known at the time of his 2007 American Folk Art Museum retrospective, and a trove of late drawings subsequently discovered in a California garage.
This show of Ramírez’s intensely patterned landscapes—featuring rippling mountain faces, frothy streams and mysterious architectural colonnades—redresses this bifurcation, tracing Ramírez’s artistic evolution over the last 15 years of his life. It begins with a monumental drawing from 1950 (done, as with most of Ramírez’s works, on pieces of found papers stuck together with potato starch or bread and saliva), whose complex topography serves as a lexicon of his signature motifs: Madonnas and gunmen, mountains, doorways, trains and tunnels. Hard on its heels follow more stylized compositions such as the delicate Untitled (Abstract Patterns with Four Animals), from 1953, with its asymmetrical design of fanciful beasts and billowing curtains.
By the end of his life, Ramírez was making works that verged on being nonrepresentational; the show includes drawings of stacked arcades as elegantly plotted as any of Roy Lichtenstein’s “Entablatures.” Not all of Ramírez’s images are so abstract, however. In one, a caballero sits triumphantly astride his horse on an oval pedestal, which erupts from a single point in space like an opening flower. He seems to stand in for Ramírez himself, who, with no way home and no way forward, made extraordinary art in the void between.”
See the Martín Ramírez – Landscapes Exhibition