In 1988 Time art critic Robert Hughes described Untitled (Tunnels and Train) as “so grand in its architecture of repeated curves that it deserves a place in any anthology of American drawing.” An exceptional example of Martín Ramírez’s ability to create depth through linework and objects through abstracted pattern, Untitled indeed shows the artist at the height of his skill. Using simple materials and sophisticated, self-assured marks, Ramírez transforms brown paper into a swirling landscape capturing the movement of the railroad.
Ramírez drew what he knew, from animals and horsemen in his native Mexico to railroads and cars that marked his early experiences in the United States. Born in Jalisco, Mexico, he spent five years as a sharecropper and journeyman laborer before purchasing a small piece of land near his hometown. He had difficulty repaying the loans for this purchase, so he left for the United States in search of temporary work on August 24, 1925. In January 1931 Ramírez was picked up by the San Joaquin County, California police and sent to the Stockton State Hospital with a diagnosis of manic depression. Transferred to the DeWitt State Hospital in Auburn, California in 1948, he remained institutionalized until his death on February 17, 1963. After the artist’s arrival at DeWitt, psychologist Dr. Tarmo Pasto noticed Ramírez’s drawings and provided a steady supply of paper and pencils, preserved his work and arranged exhibitions.
Untitled has been in the same private collection since 1976. This work has been granted clear title by the artist's estate.