Mel Ramos Catwoman, 2011, Lithograph, 32” x 29," (Collection of the Artist).
Along with Richard Diebenkorn and Wayne Thiebaud, Mel Ramos is internationally recognized as one of California's leading contemporary painters. Since the 1960s, Ramos (more than any other US-artist) bravely, keenly and vividly envisioned (or conjured) imaginative Pop Art fantasies (which in truth) pioneered early groundbreaking forms of radical-Postmodernism. Ramos's innovative and revolutionary merging of Pop Art with radical-Postmodernism is evident in his images that art historically and ingeniously reference the old masters (i.e., Botticelli, Velazquez, Boucher, David, Ingres, Manet, Bonnard and Modigliani). In fact, not since Modigliani and Matisse has a painter so appropriately apprehended the sublime sensuality of feminine beauty as Ramos has. In this regard, the legendary Bay Area visual-genius, Mel Ramos, aesthetically challenges stereotypical portrayals of Latinos or Latinas as helpless victims. For example, in his daring Neo-Baroque (“Bernini-esque”) Catwoman image, wherein the Pop master alludes to the 1940s’ Bob Kane and Bill Finger DC Comic character “Selina Kyle” (allegedly an Irish-Hispanic young woman), portrayed as a powerful whip-carrying femme-fatale jewel-thief involved in a love-hate relationship with Batman. The key issue, for Ramos, is that this type of DC Comic character was nearly censored out of existence in 1954, when these images were deemed too erotic. Heroically, via his unique Pop Art approach, Ramos played a key (and gallant) role in helping to reinstate such subjects into the visual-lexicon of American Pop iconology, which after the 1960s’ sexual revolution finally allowed such characters as “Catwoman/Selina Kyle” to reemerge and reappear in a variety of Hollywood cattish portrayals (Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Ertha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Barry and Anne Hathaway). Ramos’s animated “can-do” portrait of “Selina Kyle” as “Catwoman” immortalizes a strong American Celto-Latina as an iconic pop symbol of authentic transcultural feminist liberation.
Ramos's signature Pop Art style consistently depicts sensual female subjects posing (in pin-up poses) alongside, adjacent, or straddling icons of "The America Dream" (i.e., commercial products, groceries, animals, and other mass-media props). Ramos is unquestionably the only contemporary visual artist that has boldly endeavored to metaphorically portray the Jeffersonian "The Pursuit of Happiness," while symbolically approximating or pursuing (via his art) an authentic and unfeigned California-version of "The American Dream."
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