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The Ode to Consumerism in Sensual Paintings of the Artist Mel Ramos
16 november 2020 

The Ode to Consumerism in Sensual Paintings of the Artist Mel Ramos

Melvin John Ramos (1935-2018) was an American figurative artist working mainly on female nudes. He was a remarkable representative of the pop-art genre, so his works are the essence of American culture based on consumerism and advertising. The nude woman embracing a giant Coca-Cola bottle, who is she? Still a woman or an object to be sold? Does she promote the Coca-Cola brand or the brand promotes her? Is it the satire, which points at what will remain of the Americans and humankind in general when the civilization passes away? The spectator faces these questions when he looks at the pop-art paintings.

Mel Ramos arrtist

Fig. 1. Mel Ramos (Wikipedia.org)

The Way to Pop Art and the Career

Ramos was born in Sacramento in a family of Portuguese immigrants. Attending Sacramento Junior College and San Jose State College, Ramos was taught by pop-art painter Wayne Thiebaud, whose strong influence can be easily traced in the artist’s works. Using bright colors, Thiebaud depicted common objects like cans, sandwiches, and lipsticks (Fig. 3, 4, 5). After graduation in 1958, Ramos started his teaching career at Elk Grove High School and Mira Loma High School in Sacramento. Then eight years later, he began to contribute to California State University, East Bay, in Hayward, California. Since 1997, he was Professor Emeritus. In 1986, the artist was awarded Visual Artist’s Fellowship Grant by National Endowment for the Arts. His works are exhibited in many public galleries, the list of which you can see at the artist’s site melramos.com. Ramos also produced several books of his art and created amusing sculptures based on his paintings.

Mel Ramos artist exhibition

Fig. 2. Exhibition in Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, 2012 (Wikipedia.org)

Mel Ramos lipsticks

Fig. 3. Lipsticks by Thiebaud (townnews.com)

Mel Ramos lipsticks

Fig. 4. Sandwich by Thiebaud (pinterest.com)

Mel Ramos girl in white boots

Fig. 5. Girl in White Boots by Thiebaud (pinterest.com)

Dita von Teese

Among his works, Ramos had a series entitled “Martini Miss.” Depictions of nudes in martini glasses are dated from the 1990s to 2004. We don’t know whether burlesque dancer Dita von Teese was inspired by the works of Mel Ramos when she started to perform in a giant glass in the 1990s and early 2000s. In his turn, Ramos was definitely inspired by her performances because, in 2017, he created a sculpture of Dita sitting in a martini glass.

Mel Ramos girl in glass

Fig. 6. “Martini Miss” (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos girl in glass

Fig. 7. Dita’s performance in the glass (secretmanchester.com)

Mel Ramos girl in glass

Fig. 8. Mel Ramos “Dita”, 2017 (melramos.com)

Naked Lunch

In the article devoted to fashion photographer Helmut Newton, we quoted the words of philosopher Agamben on the models’ nudity. He said that models wear it like clothes, so it stops being what it’s supposed to be and disappears. Nude celebrities of Mel Ramos wear their nakedness, not like costumes, but like the commercial wrap of Doublemint or Toblerone, so it becomes associated with a certain product.

Mel Ramos doublemint twins

Fig. 9. Doublemint Twins
2005 – 30″ x 22″ (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos toblerone tess

Fig. 10. Toblerone Tess
2007 – 30″ x 44 1/4″ (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos snickers

Fig. 11. Candy #2
2004 – 33″ x 23″ (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos della monty

Fig. 12. Della Monty
2013 – 30 5/8″ x 25 1/8″ (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos chew bacca

Fig. 13. Chew-bacca (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos lola cola

Fig. 14. Lola-Cola #5
2018 – 31 3/4″ x 23 ” (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos donut doll

Fig. 15. Donut Doll
2018 – 23 1/2″ x 31 7/8 ” (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos dunkin donut doll

Fig. 16. Dunkin’ Donut Doll
2006 – 43″ x 22″ (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos doggie dinah

Fig. 17. Doggie Dinah
1995 – 30″ x 20″ (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos fraulein french fries

Fig. 18. Fraulein French Fries
2003 – 17″ x 17″ (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos mint patty

Fig. 19. Mint Patty
2017 – 31 3/4″ x 23 ” (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos miss kiss

Fig. 20. Miss Kiss
2012 – 31 1/2″ x 23 1/2″ (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos mandy m

Fig. 21. Mandy M (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos tucher

Fig. 22. Tucher (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos the pause that refreshes

Fig. 23. The Pause That Refreshes #2
2005 – 34″ x 23″ (melramos.com)

Barbieburger

Mel Ramos virnaburger

Fig. 24. Virnaburger
2015 – 17″ x 21″ (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos barbieburger

Fig. 25. Barbieburger (melramos.com)

When we speak of the most noticeable paintings by Ramos, it’s hard not to mention his depiction and sculpture of the nude female sitting on a big burger. Along with the title “Barbieburger,” this work seems to be a succinct description of the 1990s’ pop culture.

Modern Olympia

Mel Ramos Manets plympia

Fig. 26. Manet’s Olympia, 1974, Prints and multiples, Lithograph on wove paper, Caviar20, Toronto

Mel Ramos Manet olympia

Fig. 27. Manet “Olympia”, 1863 (Wikipedia.org)

the venus of orbino

Fig. 28. The Venus of Urbino, Titian, 1534 (Wikipedia.org)

the sleeping venus giorgino

Fig. 29. Sleeping Venus, Giorgione, 1510 (Wikipedia.org)

Manet’s Olympia

In 1974, Ramos produced a curious remake of the notorious “Olympia” by Manet (1863). As is commonly known, the work of Manet caused a great scandal as he depicted a courtesan in a pose of the woman from “The Venus of Urbino” by Titian, who, in his turn, was influenced by “Sleeping Venus” of Giorgione. Modern Venus, who has finally forgotten her origin from the Renaissance oeuvre but keeps her resemblance to Olympia, is the American Barbie, queen of marketing, which comes as no surprise. Manet’s Olympia is posing to her painter, but in the work of Ramos, the element of posing is emphasized even more. The servant looks at the painter too, as if Ramos was taking a picture of these women. The black cat is replaced with a monkey staring at us as well. The light background reminds us of the vivid images on the white magazine spreads.

And as a conclusion… The Freudian set of pictures with giant Cuban cigarettes!

Mel Ramos hava a havana

Fig. 30. Hav-a-Havana #18
2011 – 29 5/8″ x 45 1/4″ (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos cigar

Fig. 31. Hav-a-Havana #4
2001 – 35″ x 33″ (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos girl on cigar

Fig. 32. Hav-a-Havana #7
2008 – 30″ x 44″ (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos havana

Fig. 33. Hav-a-Havana #9
2014 – 21 7/8″ x 36 3/4″ (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos havana cigar

Fig. 34. Hav-a-Havana #5
2002 – 30 5/8″ x 25 1/8″ (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos davidoff

Fig. 35. Hav a Havana #11
2016 – 31 1/16″ x 23 5/8 ” (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos cigar pinup

Fig. 36. Hav-a-Havana #10
2015 – 29 1/2″ x 45 1/8″ (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos pinup with cigar

Fig. 37. Hav-a-Havana #23 (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos pinup sitting on cigar

Fig. 38. Hav-a-Havana #3
1999 – 22 5/8″ x 22 5/8″ (melramos.com)

Mel Ramos hava a havana

Fig. 39. Hav-a-Havana sculpture (melramos.com)

mel ramos walrus

Fig.40. ‘Walrus‘ (1967)

Sources: melramos.com, wikipedia.org.

Click HERE for the flirtatious nudes of the fashion photographer Helmut Newton….!!

More of Mel Ramos’ sensual consumerism can be found on the artist’s website….!!

Let us know your thoughts on this article in the comment box below. Do you like these kind of topics?

 

About the author
Darya is a philologist who lives and works in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. She is specialized in Russian literature.
Kanndro
By

Kanndro

on 18 November 2020

Mel is awesome Not to mention inspirational To my painting series' Love the erotic pop Art

Marijn
By

Marijn

on 18 November 2020

Thanks a lot Kanndro!

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