Martin Ramirez: Landscapes

13 October - 12 November 2011
Press release

Ricco/Maresca Gallery is pleased to present Martin Ramirez: Landscapes. This exhibition focuses on perhaps the most complex and mysterious subject matter of the artist’s oeuvre, and includes several powerfully imagined, mural-sized landscapes, which have never been exhibited. Martín Ramírez’s landscapes poignantly illuminate his life as a Mexican American artist suspended between the two very separate worlds of his native, beloved Jalisco, Mexico and the confines of California’s state institution system. Created between the years of 1950 until his death in 1963, these singular drawings merge the artist’s reminiscences of Mexico with his acute experience of alienation in America.

“Over the past ten or 15 years numerous outsider artists have been similarly canonized, but some kind of critical milestone was reached four or five years ago with the rediscovery of Martín Ramírez (1895-1963), an indigent Mexican labourer who came to California for work in 1925, and ended up in a succession of psychiatric hospitals. A catatonic schizophrenic (after a certain point he seems never to have spoken or responded to language again), he drew constantly, producing large, hypnotic images on brown paper bags or donated rolls of examining-table paper of the type you see in doctor’s surgeries. His characteristic subjects include arid Mexican landscapes and hills (often with train tunnels and trains coming through them), horse-riders, deer and Madonnas.


The critical milestone to which I refer was an exhilarating, even rhapsodic review of the 2007 exhibition of his work at the American Folk Art Museum, in which Roberta Smith, senior art critic at the New York Times, declared Ramírez “one of the greatest artists of the 20th century”.


Ramírez had an indelible style built on a supreme sense of economy and shot through with a mix of sly humour and sunny optimism that coats deeper, darker feelings. He had his own way with materials and colour – buoyed by an unerring sensitivity to the power of blank paper – and a cast of unforgettable characters, including mounted caballeros, levitating madonnas, and deer and dogs on high alert. But most of all Ramírez had his own brand of pictorial space, which he regulated with rhythmic systems of parallel lines, curved and straight. He played spatial illusion as if it were an accordion, expanding and contracting it in a mesmerizing alternation of stasis and movement.


If such a paean represents a contemporary art-world legitimization (however belated) that one would be hard-pressed to beat, it is also thrilling, because one can’t help but feel Smith was right. ”
– Excerpt from London Review of Books, 28 July 2011, Terry Castle, ”Do I like it?”

Martín Ramírez has been the subject of numerous museum shows, including the retrospective Martín Ramírez: Pintor Mexicano, at the Centro Cultural/Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City, in 1989, and two major exhibitions at the American Folk Art Museum, NYC – a traveling retrospective titled Martín Ramírez in 2007, and Martín Ramírez: The Last Works in 2009. In 2010, the 20th century master was the subject of a comprehensive exhibition curated by Brooke Davis Anderson at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reína Sofía, in Madrid, titled Martín Ramírez: Reframing Confinement. Ricco/Maresca Gallery is the exclusive representative of the Estate of Martín Ramírez.

Installation Views