Brooke Davis Anderson describes the moment as a "curator's dream come true." In 2007 a collection of more than 130 works on paper by Martín Ramírez surfaced, all created in the early 1960s, just before his death in 1963. Until this discovery, Ramírez's known oeuvre consisted of about 300 drawings and collages. These "last works" shine new light on an artist now revered as one of the self-taught masters of the twentieth century.
Martín Ramírez (1895-1963) immigrated to the United States from his native Mexico at the age of thirty. Diagnosed with mental illness soon after, Ramírez would spend the second half of his life in mental institutions. It was at DeWitt State Hospital in Northern California that Ramírez began exhibiting a remarkable drive for artistic expression, creating drawings with any material he could find, including paper bags, wooden matchsticks, and a paste he made from saliva and mashed potatoes. Ramírez's work illuminates the struggle of an artist trapped between two worlds, blending memories of Mexico with the experience of poverty and alienation in America. As Anderson writes, "each drawing became a beguiling act of documenting and, ultimately, sharing a life lived."
Martín Ramírez: The Last Works invites viewers to witness Ramírez's artistic development through his bold lines, meticulous repetition, and creative variations of idiosyncratic themes. With essays by Brooke Davis Anderson, Richard Rodriguez, and Wayne Thiebaud and a foreword by the family of Martín Ramírez, this book celebrates the genius of a once-dismissed yet truly extraordinary artist.