Martín Ramírez, American (born Mexico), 1895 - 1963
Born in Jalisco, Mexico, Martín Ramírez was a poor laundryman who emigrated to California but was unable to cope with the pressures of his new life as a railroad worker in the United States. From about 1935 until his death he was institutionalized in state mental hospitals as a paranoid-schizophrenic--disoriented, delusional, and mute. Around 1948 he began to make drawings, at first on pieces of scrap paper that he joined together with improvised adhesives made of mashed potatoes, water, bread, and saliva. He left a body of approximately three hundred drawings, executed in a linear, abstracted style masterful in its draftsmanship, patterning, and inventive stagelike spaces. His singularly obsessive visual vocabulary includes Mexican motifs, tunnels or caves, trains, and various animals.