Born Sacramento, CA 1935
Mel Ramos Studied art and art history at Sacramento Junior College (1953-54) and at Sacramento State College (1954-1958), where he was taught by Wayne Thiebaud. By the late 1950’s, influenced by bay Area painters such as Nathan Oliveira and David Park. He was painting somber, virtually abstract works relieved by occasional patches of bright color. In 1961 he began to paint comic book characters, as in Batmobile (1962), sometimes representing them in close to live size to make them believable. His technique, like Thiebaud, involved prominent brushwork, a legacy of Abstract Expressionism, and he also used an unmodelled monochrome background to emphasize the flat canvas surface. These first Pop paintings, made by him in 1961 and 1962 without knowledge of the comic-stripe pictures made at the same time by Warhol and Lichtenstein, Were all of male characters. In 1963 he concentrated on female comic-stripe characters such as Wonder Woman, introducing a note of provocative female sexiness that became central to his work. Ramos had his first one-man show at the Bianchini Gallery in New York in 1964. In the same year he began a series of single female figures derived from pin-up magazines and from advertisements in which they were used as enticements to sell products, as in Miss Cushion Air (Miss Firestone) (1965). As in some of the earlier comic-stripe works, large-scale lettering was used, sometimes lifted straight from advertisements. The brushstrokes in these paintings, absorbed into a harsh graphic style, were less visible and tactile than before. Developing this subject, from1972 Ramos painted nudes based on images by other artists including Ingres. Modigliani, Manet and de Kooning, replacing their eroticism with the more vulgar and direct sexuality of the pin-up. As with the preceding pictures these were intended as ironic comments on the exploitative treatment of women in society, though similar accusations have been made of his own work. In the late 1980’s Ramos turned to landscape subjects and a series of work entitled The Artist in his Studio. In the 1990’s Ramos has devoted much of his time to completing series of female figures, which he had previously left unfinished. Again turning his critical gaze to the roles that women have in society, Ramos is now exploring the portrayal of women less as exploited objects, but increasingly as popular icons themselves. Ramos now divides his time between the Bay Area and Europe, calling Spain his second home.