Mel Ramos (b. 1935)
The Green Lantern
signed, titled and dated '"THE GREEN LANTERN" 1962 MEL RAMOS' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
49 x 43 in. (124.4 x 109.2 cm.)
Painted in 1962.
Modernism, San Francisco, acquired directly from the artist
Private collection, California, 1988
Anon. sale; Bonham's, New York, 13 May 2008, lot 31
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Mel Ramos: Pop Art Images, Cologne, 1994, p. 18 (illustrated in color).
D. B. Kuspit and L. K. Meisel, Mel Ramos Pop Art Fantasies: The Complete Paintings, New York, 2004, p. 36 (illustrated in color).
The Oakland Museum, Mel Ramos: Paintings 1959-1977, September-November 1977, pp. 9 and 30, no. 9 (illustrated).
San Francisco, Modernism, Mel Ramos: Paintings 1962-1986, November-December 1986.

Brought to you by

Jennifer Yum
Jennifer Yum

Lot Essay

“The whole point of my art,” Ramos has said, “is that art grows out of art. That is central, no matter whether it is high art, low art, popular art or what. Comic books, girlie magazines, magazine ads, billboards are all art to me.” (D. Kuspit, “The Uses of Irony: Popularity and Beauty in Mel Ramos Painting," Mel Ramos Pop Art Fantasies, New York, 2004, p.27

Enamored with everyday popular culture and images from mass media, California born artist, Mel Ramos masterfully rendered the most iconic superheroes of American Pop culture. Painted in 1962, The Green Lantern is an outstanding example from his first mature body of work, the comic book series. The Green Lantern is executed with powerful and dramatic brushstrokes, alluding to the impending action and the swift instincts of this powerful heroic figure. For Ramos, he indulges in the fantasy of omnipotence and the invincibility of these Pop icons. He depicts The Green Lantern in action, ready to fight crime and defend the nation.

The present lot illustrates the Green Lantern isolated within a void of thick flesh- colored texture suggesting the eminent motion and speed of the figure. In an interview with art historian Belinda Grace Gardner, he called himself an “Expressionist”, firm in the belief that traces of the artists hand must be present in the work. Ramos skillfully crafts comic superheroes into a distinct new imagery through their hyper- expressive gestures. “I decided that instead of painting people I knew, I would paint people I grew up admiring.” (T. Levy, Mel Ramos: I Love Women, 2007, Bielefeld, p.8).

Throughout his career Ramos was most interested in the intersection of high and low art. He looked toward the “America’s collective unconscious” to create new images that stemmed from Pop culture. Like other Pop artists who drew on popular imagery in the 1950s and 1960s such as, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Ramos transformed mass media figures into his own hand-made, unique images.

In contrast to Lichtenstein’s paintings, which were single frames of comics taken out of context, devoid of the artist’s hand, Ramos masterfully executes full length views of heroes in action. His comic heroes depicted both the simplicity and invincibility of these American icons. After Miss Liberty, painted in 1962, Ramos executed a series of sexy comic book characters. These Pop icons were the commodification of American sexual desires. After his comic book series, he went on to create over a dozen clearly defined series featuring female nudes, in what his most admired surrealist artist, Salvador Dali would describe as “hand-painted photographs” (B. Gardner, “Wonder Women”, Mel Ramos, Germany, 2002, p. 27).

Painted with expressive thick strokes reminiscent of his San Francisco Bay Area mentor, Wayne Thiebaud and his appreciation for the Abstract Expressionist style of Willem de Kooning, Ramos created images that straddle both the interest in popular culture and Pop Icons and the craftsmanship of his figures. “The motifs he took from comics lent his work a levity and cheeriness that activated new visual dimensions and distanced him from both the Bay Area Figurative School and Abstract Expressionism, and as he refined his style, his figures became ever more concrete and precise in their execution.” (M. Espoinosa and O. Letze, “Mel Ramos: Life and Work,” Mel Ramos 50 Years of Pop Art, Germany, 2010, p. 12).

More from Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale Session II

View All
View All