Gitanes, 2012, Polychrome resin, 85 x 48 x 70 cm, 33 ½ x 19 x 27 ½ in
Mel Ramos, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol exhibited together in a seminal show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1963. It was the era of Playboy (then a publishing phenomenon) and of Marshall McLuhan’s ‘the medium is the message’ analysis of advertising manipulation. Ramos’ ironic commentaries on the use of sex to sell any commodity (and the Californian obsession with the body beautiful) reflected other American artists’ – like Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, Tom Wesselmann and Wayne Thiebaud – reaction to the soft power of popular culture and the mass media. Pop Art rapidly became an influential movement that still resonates today, and Ramos is regarded as a key participant in its evolution.
Initially the Feminist movement of the 1970s, and now current social issues concerned with misogyny and the #MeToo movement, have redefined Ramos’ work as controversial. Even his depictions of famous comic book characters have come under negative scrutiny, when re-viewed through the lens of contemporary sensibilities. Nevertheless, his confrontational use of the female nude, configured with branded products, to generate an ‘instant recognition’ factor, has paved the way for the uninhibited, sexualised subject matter common in 21st century Post-Pop art.
The art of Mel Ramos is included in the Whitney Museum of American Art; Museum of Modern Art in New York; and a major exhibition was held at the Albertina in Vienna in 2011. His first solo show in the UK is at the Bermondsey Project Space in 2019.
Ramos was art professor at California State University, East Bay (1966 -97), and emeritus professor (1998-2018).