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Mel Ramos was born on July 24, 1935 in Sacramento, CA. He attended Sacramento Junior College from 1954 to 1955 and San Jose State College from 1955 to 1956. He earned a BA in 1957 and an MA degree in 1958 from Sacramento State College. As a student Mel Ramos painted symbolic, surrealistic works that were influenced by Salvadore Dali. He then experimented with Pop Art, abstraction including a series of variations on Willem de Kooning’s “Woman” paintings and photo-real landscapes whose tone was hard and steely.
The artist taught at Elk Grove High School from 1958-1960 and Mira Loma High School from 1960-1966 in Sacramento, CA. Mel Ramos taught at his alma mater Sacramento State College from 1965-1966. In 1966, he taught at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. From 1966-1997, he was Professor Emeritus at California State University in Hayward, CA. In 1970, Mel Ramos was an Artist in Residence at Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY and in 1973, he was an Artist in Residence at University of Wisconsin in Madison, WS.
A California artist whose work reflects a variety of styles from Pop Art to Surrealism, Mel Ramos painted pretty, sexy women as pinups or trophies as well as highly realistic, almost trompe l’oeil landscapes. A typical example of Mel Ramos’ Pop style was Chiquita, oil on canvas, 1964.
At the height of modernism in the 1950′s, when figuration almost died out across America, Mel Ramos and other California artists kept it alive during the 1960′s. Portraiture was essentially dead at that time, and although nudes were occasionally painted, they were no longer idealized. With society’s increased openness about sex, nudes became erotic and almost pornographic.
In 1986, Mel Ramos received the National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists Fellowship Grant United States-France Exchange Fellowship.
Thomas Albright, Art in the San Francisco Bay Area
Biography from the Archives of AskART.