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MEL RAMOS (1935-2018)

 
MEL RAMOS - Dom Perignon - oil on canvas - 60 x 35 7/8 in. MEL RAMOS - Dom Perignon - oil on canvas - 60 x 35 7/8 in. MEL RAMOS - Dom Perignon - oil on canvas - 60 x 35 7/8 in. MEL RAMOS - Dom Perignon - oil on canvas - 60 x 35 7/8 in. MEL RAMOS - Dom Perignon - oil on canvas - 60 x 35 7/8 in. MEL RAMOS - Dom Perignon - oil on canvas - 60 x 35 7/8 in. MEL RAMOS - Dom Perignon - oil on canvas - 60 x 35 7/8 in. MEL RAMOS - Dom Perignon - oil on canvas - 60 x 35 7/8 in. MEL RAMOS - Dom Perignon - oil on canvas - 60 x 35 7/8 in. MEL RAMOS - Dom Perignon - oil on canvas - 60 x 35 7/8 in.
Dom Perignon201660 x 35 7/8 in.(152.4 x 91.44 cm) oil on canvas
Provenance
Private Collection, California, acquired from the Artist
 
Exhibition
Mel Ramos: Sirens & Heroes, Modernism Fine Art Inc., San Francisco, California, November 2, 2017-January 13, 2018
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“I make sure that my pictures are not too erotic and that they always have a trace of humor. I make sure they are ‘in good taste.’ Either you understand it or not.” – Mel Ramos

History

Mel Ramos is best known for his paintings of superheroes and female nudes juxtaposed with pop culture imagery. Many of the subjects in his paintings emerge from iconic brands or cultural touchstones like Chiquita bananas, M&M bags, or Snickers. In these works, visual delight is combined with suggested edible and commercial indulgence.

Like his contemporaries, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Ramos appropriates imagery from mass media and pop culture to produce ironic distillations of advertisement. Ramos and his fellow Pop artists provided a visual language for audiences to understand and experience the proliferation of commercial images that exploded in post-war America, and for today’s viewers, a way to interpret the current abundance of images provided by a digital world. However, Ramos’s paintings showcase an appreciation and understanding of Old Masters in their combination with sensual female nudes and realism. In his later works, Ramos even began using computers to assist him in his creative process, using the technology to help him create compositions, from which he then painted.

These works conflate optical and savory fantasies, tempting the viewer to understand the connection between visual and gustatory consumption. Weaving through this is the understanding that there is no barrier, no hierarchy of subject matter that normally exists within art. As Ramos noted, “Comic books, girlie magazines, magazine ads, billboards are all art to me. The whole point of my art is that art grows out of an art.” The paintings sit at the intersection of humor, satire, wit, sensuality, and earnestness.

“I try to work every day, even when I’m not motivated. Ritual is very important to me.” – Mel Ramos

Top Results at Auction

Oil on canvas, 60 x 50 in. Sold at Sotheby’s London: 22 May 2012.

"A.C. Annie" (1971) sold for $1,690,566 USD.

Oil on canvas, 60 x 50 in. Sold at Sotheby’s London: 22 May 2012.
Oil on canvas, 59.8 x 44.1 in. Sold at Christie’s London: 15 October 2006.

"Peek-a-boo Raven #2" (1964) sold for $1,012,057 USD.

Oil on canvas, 59.8 x 44.1 in. Sold at Christie’s London: 15 October 2006.
Acrylic on canvas, 44.5 x 32 in. Sold at Sotheby’s London: 21 June 2007.

"Peek-a-boo, platinum #2" (1964) sold for $887,826 USD.

Acrylic on canvas, 44.5 x 32 in. Sold at Sotheby’s London: 21 June 2007.

Comparable Paintings Sold at Auction

Oil on linen, 70 x 50 in. Sold at Sotheby’s London: 13 February 2013.

“Butterfinger” (1995) sold for $505,439 USD.

Oil on linen, 70 x 50 in. Sold at Sotheby’s London: 13 February 2013.
  • Similar subject with vivid color and strong wall presence
  • Larger example of comparable quality
  • Created in 1995, a comparable later period
Oil on canvas, 48 x 60 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 03 March 2016.

“Red Hots Rita” (2012) sold for $310,000 USD.

Oil on canvas, 48 x 60 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 03 March 2016.
  • A comparable nude with a Pop Art style
  • A 2012 work, also from this later period
Oil on canvas, 40 x 74 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 15 May 2013.

“Hav-a-Havana #6” (2000) sold for $305,000 USD.

Oil on canvas, 40 x 74 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 15 May 2013.
  • A larger nude that also retains the artist’s signature style
  • A 2000 work, also from this later period
Oil on canvas, 36 x 24 in. Sold at Phillips New York: 17 May 2007.

“Miss Martini #2” (2004) sold for $300,000 USD.

Oil on canvas, 36 x 24 in. Sold at Phillips New York: 17 May 2007.
  • A vertical format nude with a comparable subject and size
  • A 2004 work, also from this later period
  • Sold for $300k 15 years ago

Paintings in Museum Collections

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

“Miss Grapefruit Festival” (1964), oil on canvas, 40 x 34 in.

The Crocker Museum, Sacramento, California

“The Atom” (1962), oil on canvas, 50 x 44 in.

The Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri

“The Fonda Image” (1970), acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 in.
“Comic books, girlie magazines, magazine ads, billboards are all art to me. The whole point of my art is that art grows out of an art.” – Mel Ramos

Additional Resources

The Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California

See Mel Ramos at work in his studio in this interview by the Crocker Art Museum.

The Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria

Explore similar works by Ramos in his 2011 solo exhibition at the Albertina Museum in Vienna.

The New York Times

Ramos passed away in 2018. Revisit the highlights of his life and work in the New York Times.

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