Remembering that it was a group of artists and psychiatrists who established the field of Outsider Art, we owe much to both for recognizing the visionary genius of Martín Ramírez. After twenty years of hospitalization, Ramírez began to secretly make drawings and collages on sheets of scavenged paper he glued together with starchy foods and spit. In 1954 he presented a group of these to Sacramento State College visiting psychology professor Dr. Tarmo Pasto, who, sensing they were exceptional, put them safely away in storage. Years later, Chicago artist Jim Nutt, teaching at the college in the late 1960s, found the works, and spearheaded the first exhibition of Ramirez' work, leading to its representation by Phyllis Kind Gallery, and attention from the greater art world.
Born in the Los Altos region of Jalisco, Mexico, Ramirez lived there until he was about 30. Scenes, memories, and dreams from that culture seemingly confront the viewer. Los Altos is ranchland and it is no surprise that horses and their trappings are shown in such detail. Hunting was a survival activity; the area was thick with deer and other game animals. Mexican folk Catholicism permeates this art, from apocalyptic imagery to allegories of animal Madonna and child.
The art of Martín Ramírez is monumental. Ranging in size from a few inches to nine feet in height, the effect of his drawings on the viewer is enormous. Drawn in by the proscenium he has set up, one is mesmerized by the lines, colors, and characters he has assembled there. A master fabulist, his stories include images of the natural world of landscapes and animals, cities, roads, men on horseback, cars, trucks, ships, the Virgin, highly imaginative variations of trains and tunnels, and sometimes letters and words in his native Spanish.
Click images to enlarge
Untitled, c. 1950
mixed media on paper
Collection of Phyliss Kind
Untitled, c. 1950
pencil, crayon and mixed media on paper
Collection of Linda & Larry Feiwel
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