Traqueros, part 3: The Art of Martín Ramírez (1895–1963)
Martín Ramírez (1895–1963) was born in Jalisco, Mexico. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1925 to work in California as a miner and a traquero. Poverty and his need to seek steady work forced him to leave his wife Ana and their four children in Mexico. The Great Depression left him unemployed, and acute mental illness led him to be remanded to the DeWitt State Hospital in Auburn, California in 1948, where he lived until his death in 1963.
As told by the curators at the Smithsonian American Art Museum: "Around 1948, Ramírez began to draw on an eclectic array of paper surfaces—brown wrapping paper, laundry lists, paper cups, old letters—which were glued together to form a unified drawing area. He made use of a variety of tools and techniques, including crayons, colored pencils, watercolors, chalk, ink, and collage.
"Ramírez's motifs reflect his life in two distinct cultures. His highly patterned, intricate drawings present fantastic renditions of subjects such as Mexican soldiers, Madonnas, prairie dogs, cars, and trains. In terms of technique, what is most extraordinary in Ramírez's art is his use of line to create the many different kinds of space—niches, frames, stages—in which his protagonists are placed. Although flatness characterizes the overall effect of his technique, the numerous parallel lines in Ramírez's work bring about a sense of visual depth."
About 450 of Martin Ramirez's drawings and collages are known to exist. He is widely regarded as one of the 20th century's greatest autodidactic artists. His work has been presented in solo exhibitions at museums around the world, including the Centro cultural/Arte contemporáneo in Mexico City (1989), the American Folk Art Museum in New York City (2007, 2009), and the Museo nacional centro de arte Reína Sofía in Madrid (2010).
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