Born in Sacramento in 1935, Mel Ramos studied at Sacramento City College and
San José State College before receiving his MA from Sacramento State College in 1958. He went on to teach at various institutions in the area, and gained popularity during the 1960s Pop Art movement when he became
internationally recognized as a contemporary of Andy Warhol and Roy
But as feminism rose in the 1970s, Ramos’ reputation faced an onslaught of criticism. Although his
advocates argued that his paintings satirized the use of sex in
advertising, “…he made a certain image of heterosexual male fantasy far
too explicit.” Ramos kept his female nudes intact and sexually desirable, and his
work has often been considered too close to soft-core porn for the art world’s taste.
“People make references to my work as sex, which is simply not true. Sex
is an activity and nudity is a condition. When I do a painting,
everybody calls them pinups. When Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse did nude
paintings, people called them nudes. That’s what I want to be part of. I
want to be of the group that’s called nudes not pinups. Jesus Christ.”
Because of his
depictions of lovely ladies caressing various commercial products, he’s
dealt with some trademark issues over the years. As recently as the
early 2000s, lawyers from Coca-Cola sent him a letter saying they didn’t
approve of naked women in conjunction with the Coke bottle.
sent ’em an email back saying that the painting they were complaining
about was done in 1972, and the statute of limitations on copyright is
three years,” he said. “Here they were contacting me 30 years later.
Plus, it was the Coca-Cola company in Germany that was sponsoring my
show that included that very painting. After I told ’em that, I didn’t
hear from them anymore.”
1959 Mel Ramos has participated in more than 120 group shows; recently he has begun replicating some of his more iconic works as painted fiberglass and polychrome resin sculptures. Ramos currently lives and works alternately in Oakland, California and in Horta de San Juan in Spain.