Mel Ramos (b. 1935)
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Mel Ramos (b. 1935)

Peek-a-boo Raven #2

Mel Ramos (b. 1935)
Peek-a-boo Raven #2
signed, titled and dated 'PEEK-A-BOO, RAVEN #2, BY MEL RAMOS 1964' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
59 7/8 x 44 1/8in. (152 x 112cm.)
Painted in 1964
Bianchini Gallery, New York (20).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's New York, 2 November 1994, lot 159.
Fashion Concept Inc., New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1994.
P. Restany, 'A Rare Collection in Israel', in: Cimaise, revue de l'art actuel, no. 246, April-May 1997 (illustrated, unpaged).
T. Levy (ed.), Mel Ramos: Heroines, Goddesses, Beauty Queens, Bielefeld 2002 (illustrated in colour, p. 189 and incorrectly titled Peek-a-boo, Raven #3).
D. Kuspit, Mel Ramos: Pop Art Fantasies: The Complete Paintings, New York 2004 (illustrated in colour, p. 78).
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VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium

Lot Essay

The woman in Peek-a-boo Raven #2, painted in 1964, has the air of a pin-up, yet the composition (like the title) makes it clear that she is being viewed through a keyhole. This painting dates from the first year of Ramos' Peek-a-boo pictures, the series with which he discovered his true signature style. In this work, the woman is looking teasingly over her shoulder, addressing the viewer directly and making no attempt whatsoever to cover herself. It is clear that she is involved with the viewer, that she is complicit, that this is not simple voyeurism but a more elaborate game or role-play. She is posing for the viewer, despite the keyhole providing an illusion that the viewer is concealed. Her coquettish stance and facial expression add a distinct air of artifice to the image, pushing it deliberately towards the realm of pornography, banishing any of the sinister subtext of the Peeping Tom and replacing it with humour and lashings of sex.

Ramos's humour is more complex than it may at first appear, and irony plays a vast part in the effectiveness of his pictures. While the content is to some degree titillating, the fact that Ramos has chosen to enshrine simple pin-ups in oils allows him to display his Pop credentials. Ramos's excursion into the world of Pop had begun with his paintings-- in incongruous oils inspired by his mentor Wayne Thiebaud-- of superheroes pillaged from the pages of comic books. He focussed on women as his subjects, presenting them in a manner that was at once eroticised and also tied into the iconography of advertising. These women were already sexualised by the time that 'I finally just removed the costumes' (Ramos, quoted in E. Claridge, The Girls of Mel Ramos, Chicago, 1975, p. 60). In many works from this point, through collage-like composition, he would place these slightly pornographic images explicitly within an advertising context, surrounding them with all-American brand-names, Cola and burgers. Placed into their new contexts the women in Ramos' paintings are all deliberately erotic, and yet that eroticism has been used in order to both celebrate a large aspect of popular culture that at that time was still ignored, and also to point to the role that the exploitation of sexuality in images played in advertising. Images only a little less overt than Peek-a-boo Raven #2 have long featured in the pictures that fill newspapers, magazines and the television, and it is as an indicator of their hypocrisy, their manipulation of the viewer and all the same as a celebration of their beauty that Peek-a-boo Raven #2 functions.

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