MediaFebruary 21, 2007
Martín Ramírez by Brooke Davis Anderson
Published by: Marquand Books, in association with the American Folk Art Museum
A Mexican immigrant who fell on hard times during the Depression, Martín Ramírez spent his last 32 years in Californian mental institutions before dying at DeWitt State Hospital in 1963. While hospitalized, he drew on scraps of paper, which he often pasted together to form larger works, repeating variations on favorite subjects such as riders on horseback, trains in tunnels, Madonnas confronting the viewer, and detailed surrealist landscapes. In the early '50s, Tarmo Pasto, a professor of psychology and art at Sacramento State College, met Ramírez and immediately recognized his talent. Pasto encouraged the self-taught artist and arranged acclaimed exhibitions — in 1968, Pasto sold nearly 300 of Ramírez's works to dealer Phyllis Kind and artists Jim Nutt and Gladys Nilsson, after Nutt discovered the drawings while teaching at Sacramento State. Over time, Kind brought Ramírez to the attention of the art world, showing his drawings at her galleries in Chicago and New York. This scholarly book, which accompanies a remarkable traveling exhibition, examines the artist's work, his family history, his artistic development in seclusion, the myths about his life, his cultural identity, and the debate over whether he should be recognized as an outsider or modern artist.