Posted: November 6th, 2008
Martin Ramirez: The Archive and The Repertoire

Martin Ramirez (1895 – 1963) created hundreds of drawings of remarkable visual clarity and expressive power within the confines of DeWitt State Hospital in northern California, where he resided the last 15 years of his life. Ramirez had been codified primarily as a “schizophrenic artist,” but the American Folk Art Museum exhibition goes beyond the boundaries of Ramirez’s diagnosis of mental illness and considers the artistic quality and merit of his artwork. In this way, Ramirez’s works are understood — and appreciated — for the complex, multilayered drawings that they are. Dr. Tomas Ybarra-Frausto, former associate director for creativity and culture at the Rockefeller Foundation, explains that the imagery of many American self-taught artists is held mainly in the “repertoire” — that is, the oral tradition. His talk explores how Martin Ramirez’s artwork has moved from the repertoire to the official archive. This event was held at the American Folk Art Museum.


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