Mel Ramos Pop Art Fantasies: The Complete Paintings

    (Watson-Guptill)
™ and © Mel Ramos & Donald Kuspit

Pop art’s goal was to “focus on common objects and imagery from the mass media.” Though comics fans may not know Mel Ramos’ work, he took this mission to heart, exploring the voyeuristic male gaze on female nudes in a variety of outlandish settings. Ramos taught at Cal State Hayward (1967–1998) and began riffing in 1963 on comicdom’s Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Sheena, The Phantom, and The Phantom Lady. But his enduring interest was fetishizing alluring women against backdrops of cheese, phones, fruit, ketchup, candy bars, burgers, cars, animals, cigars, soda, and fashion. From his Peekaboo series in 1964 (in which the viewer peeps through a keyhole) to his 1999 Galatea line (from the story of Pygmalion), Ramos commented on art with art and experimented with pinups over type. In extra large canvases (50x60 inches, 80x60 inches) to smaller watercolor studies, he immortalized centerfolds as well as Marilyn Monroe. Though contemporaries like Wayne Thiebaud became more renowned, Ramos’ career retrospective of nearly 500 colorful paintings gives new definition to the term “eye candy.”

— Oliver Chin

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 Donal KuspitMel Ramos