Ingenious, enchanting, and mysterious, and with an underlying note of relentlessness and rigidity, the work of Martìn Ramìrez presents a way of newly seeing a specific physical terrain. In the pictures of this self-taught or “outsider” artist, a Mexican immigrant who spent half his life in American mental institutions, where he made all his art, we are given distillations of a rhythmically rolling, mountainous, and largely sand-colored land. It is crossed with sweeping, serpentine railroad tracks and highways, busy always with the movement of trains, cars, and buses, and it is punctuated here and there with dark entrances to tunnels through the mountains—erotically charged zones, in effect, which swallow up the various vehicles or send them zooming out. We see horsemen brandishing pistols, Madonnas, and the towers of Catholic churches. There are hares, antelopes, and wild dogs as well as glimpses, via images from magazines that Ramìrez collaged onto his drawings, of a more modern western landscape, one marked by the smiling, pert young women in cowgirl gear and the huge new locomotives and automobiles of American advertising of the 1940s and 1950s.
more from the NY Review of Books here.