Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Galleries

Santa Monica

June 17, 1988|WILLIAM WILSON

Mel Ramos' current batch of painted cuties carries the curious aura of an art that is slowly passing into history. Since the '60s the entertaining Bay Area performer has limned lush nudes, first satirizing their exploitation as sellers of commodities in the Pop era, then as the emblematic embodiment of powerful animals and more recently as vehicles of commentary on the uses of the nude in art history--somehow introducing into this a plaintiff Rodney Dangerfield subtext that Ramos himself hasn't gotten enough respect for his efforts.

The present baker's dozen of oils and watercolors extends the idea into the timeless rumination on the artist and his model in the studio. One work interposes a large Matisse-style nude into the corner of a room where a mirror stands reflecting a "real" girl. (It is no mean feat that Ramos manages to convince us that his painted girls are more real than Matisse's painted models.)

A feeling wafts across the mind that imagines Ramos saying, "Look, I love to paint the female nude. All I have ever cared about was trying to get down the looks of those gorgeous young goddesses who miraculously brighten the drab landscape of reality. Everything I've done has just been an excuse to go on looking at them."

Certainly only sculptor Robert Graham rivals Ramos for sheer helpless adulation of the undraped model. There is terrific affection in works with titles like "Nude Descending the Staircase" and "Girl Before a Mirror" as well as an implied rejection of art in favor of reality.

Yet for all this fondness, there is a chilly objectivity about Ramos' tired mid-palette colors and an uncharacteristic surrender to anatomical distortions typical of Photo-Realism. It is as if he painted with a consciousness that--in these neo-puritanical days--his fondness for simple voyeurism joins a growing list of proscribed activities once considered harmless, like smoking, taking a stiff belt and making love to a stranger. We live in odd, unforgiving times. (James Corcoran Gallery, 1327 5th St. to July 2.)

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|