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    Mel Ramos (1935-2018)
    Leta and the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, diptych, 1969
    Oil on canvas
    50 x 100 inches (127 x 254 cm)
    Signed, dated, and titled on the reverse of each: Diptych / "Leta and the Scissor-Tailed / Flycatcher" / Oil on canvas 1969 / By Mel Ramos

    Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York;
    Christie's, New York, November 12, 1991, lot 61;
    Private collection, Mineola, New York.

    Mel Ramos: A Twenty Year Survey, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, April 13-May 16, 1980.

    T. Levy, ed., with text by B. G. Gardner, Mel Ramos: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings 1953-2015, Berlin, 2017, catalog no. 69-4 , p. 204, illustrated.

    In the 1960s, Sacramento-born Mel Ramos was as well-known in the pop-art world as contemporaries named Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and James Rosenquist. In museums across the country, his works - as playful as they were thoughtful, offering dizzying spins on familiar images - were displayed alongside theirs. So profound was his impact that in the summer of 1963, when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art displayed the Guggenheim's revolutionary New York-centric exhibition "Six Painters and the Object," Ramos was among the half-dozen California artists added to the show.

    It was in this decade that Ramos developed the visual vocabulary that became characteristic of his work and that he continued to use until his recent death at the age of 83: humorous and provocative paintings of naked women, often combined with images taken from advertising.

    Ramos' wife Leta was the model for many of these early works. Here Leta is shown resting on her side in an empty field of color while a small bird approaches from an accompanying canvas. This is one of a series of works from the late 60s and early 70s where Leta appears with various species of birds. The juxtaposition of nude and bird is rooted in art history: the title "Leta and the Scissor Tailed Flycatcher" references the Greek myth Leda and the Swan, the meticulously detailed bird recalls the illustrations of John James Audubon, and the absurd pairing of objects in empty space reminds us of Dali's surrealist elephants.

    Like the best of the pop artists, Ramos saw fine art in what was dismissed as lowbrow culture. Ramos' muse Leta salutes art history but also references contemporary pin-ups, cartoon motifs, Playboy centerfolds, and other commercialized nudes. It was Ramos' intention to present his subjects "in a heraldic way, the way Gainsborough would do a portrait," he said, referring to the 18th-century English master Thomas Gainsborough.

    It's little wonder, then, his works appear in museums worldwide, from the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

    Over the course of his storied career Ramos' wife Leta would appear in various series by the artist. Blessed with eternal youth and beauty, Leta would go on to be posed with various consumer products, seeming at once to both celebrate and satirize the American mantra, "sex sells."

    More information about Mel Ramos, also known as Ramos, Mel, Ramos, Melvin John, Mel Ramos.

    Condition Report*: Craquelure throughout each canvas. Small paint loss to the lower left area of the canvas with the scissor-tailed flycatcher. Mild surface soiling in the upper right portion of the canvas by the scissor-tailed flycatcher's wing. There is a small pressure point to the upper left of the canvas with the scissor-tailed flycatcher. Unlined canvas. Framed.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2021
    13th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
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