Self-taught Mexican-American artist Martín Ramírez (1895–1963) is being doubly honored this month: the United States Postal Service is releasing a set of five commemorative stamps featuring his unique artwork, while New York’s Ricco/Maresca Gallery is hosting solo exhibition of his work. While Grandma Moses was honored in the same way, it’s rare for an Outsider artist to get the stamp treatment, much less one who was schizophrenic and an immigrant from Mexico.
The Postal Service has a long history of putting art on postage, most recently issuing a photorealistic portrait of Maya Angelou by Atlanta-based artist Ross Rossin (see Maya Angelou Immortalized by Postal Service With Photorealistic Portrait). The practice is not confined to the US either—this past year, Finland released a wildly popular set of stamps featuring homoerotic illustrations from artist Tom of Finland (see Tom of Finland’s Homoerotic Stamps Are a Hit).
Ramírez moved to the US in 1925, and, after being diagnosed with schizophrenia in the early 1930s, spent the rest of his life as a patient in California psychiatric hospitals. There, Ramírez turned to art, creating some 500 pieces, some as large as 20 feet long.
A Ramírez work on paper fetched just over $270,000 at Paris auction house Cornette de Saint-Cyr in March 2013, setting an auction record for the artist. Other works have achieved prices as high as $95,000 (Christie’s New York in 2003) and $134,500 (Sotheby’s New York in 2011).
His incredibly detailed work, which incorporates imagery from the artist’s life in both Mexico and the US, is now widely recognized for its unconventional, yet compelling draftsmanship, featuring figurative drawings often set in abstract, geometric settings. Ramírez worked primarily in crayon, but became interested in collage later in life.
If you’re not familiar with Ramírez’s work, you have a chance to explore his life and legacy at New York gallery Ricco/Maresca’s “Martín Ramírez: Forever,” opening March 26, the same day the stamps will arrive at a post office near you.
The stamps will be “Forever” stamps that will always be redeemable as first-class postage despite any rate increases.
“Martin Ramirez: Forever” will be on view at New York’s Ricco/Maresca Gallery March 26–May 2.
For more of artnet News coverage on stamps, see:
- US Postal Service Must Pay Artist $540,000 for Using His Art on Stamp
- Sheikh Saud Left $7.5 Million Rare Stamp Debt to Qatar’s Ruling Family
- $9.5 Million for One Cent Stamp
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