Diagnosed schizophrenic and institutionalized in Northern California from 1931 until his death in 1963, Mexican immigrant Martín Ramírez spent 30-plus years creating meticulously rhythmic works of art with whatever he could get his hands on — scrap paper, melted crayons, discarded matches. In the vein of fellow outsider artists such as Henry Darger, who spent years cooped up in his Chicago apartment creating a hand-drawn, 15,000-page fantasy epic, Ramírez created an 18-foot scroll that serves as a glossary to the visual vocabulary in his work.
That scroll and about 50 other works by Ramírez — demonstrating his “unique draftsmanship of concentric lines, undulating patterns and surreal topography” — will be included in one of ICA LA's three inaugural exhibits. It's the first solo exhibit of Ramírez's work in Southern California, and it's part of the Getty's massive Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative. The other two exhibits, an installation by New York artist Abigail DeVille and a site-specific work by L.A.-based artist Sarah Cain, will be on display in the Project Room and the museum's courtyard, respectively.
Formerly the Santa Monica Museum of Art, ICA LA — Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles — is opening its 12,700-square-foot, Kulapat Yantrasast–designed facility Sept. 9 and 10 in the Arts District with a weekend's worth of free festivities themed to the inaugural exhibitions. That includes a workshop in creating art from found materials like Ramírez, a concert to celebrate day laborers (Ramírez initially immigrated to the United States to work on the railroad) and a bilingual tour of the exhibition. A schedule of events is below, but the free museum's entire fall schedule will be available at theicala.org beginning Sept. 1.
Saturday, Sept. 9
Bilingual guided exhibition tours of “Martín Ramírez: His Life in Pictures, Another Interpretation”
1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. & 4 p.m.
Join Elsa Longhauser, executive director of ICA LA and curator of “Martín Ramírez: His Life in Pictures, Another
Interpretation,” and Victor Espinosa, biographer of the artist, for in-depth walkthroughs of the exhibition.
Matchsticks and Mashed Potatoes
11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Take a seat at this open workshop and make collaged drawings in the spirit of Martín Ramírez. While at DeWitt State Hospital, Ramírez’s commitment to drawing in spite of his limited access to art supplies led him to alternative methods and materials, including matchsticks for drawing and mashed potatoes for glue. For this workshop, attendees are invited to use similar resources to create unique works that evoke Ramírez’s extraordinary creations.
Live performance by Los Jornaleros del Norte (The Day Laborers of the North)
Los Jornaleros del Norte will perform a live concert of original songs written in solidarity with day laborers. Los
Jornaleros have become a pillar of L.A.’s grassroots migrant rights movement, using their music to educate, organize and mobilize the public. With musicians from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, Los Jornaleros del Norte present a united Latin American front in addressing family separation, unjust detention, inhumane incarceration and the persecution of communities of color.
Sunday, Sept. 10
Migrar — Bilingual storybook reading and bookmaking workshop with LA librería and Book Arts L.A.
11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Spanish-language children’s bookstore LA librería will lead a bilingual reading of Migrar, a story written by José
Manuel Mateo about a young boy and his family's migration experience from Mexico to the United States. Artist
Javier Martínez Pedro illustrates the journey as one continuous drawing that unfolds like an accordion across a series of beautifully printed pages, evoking pre-Columbian Mayan codices. Following the reading, Book Arts L.A. will host a bookmaking workshop with papel amaté — a paper made from tree bark. RSVP required.
A conversation with James Oles, Rubén Gallo, Josh Kun and Harriet Stratis, moderated by Elsa Longhauser
Leading scholars of Latin American art and culture Josh Kun, Rubén Gallo, James Oles and conservator Harriet
Stratis will discuss the life and work of Martín Ramírez. Drawing on biographical records, the history of art in
Mexico, the social dynamics of California in the mid–20th century and Ramírez’s techniques and materials, this group will add a range of new perspectives to the artist’s complex story.
Cambalache Performance and Workshop
Maestro Cesar Castro, Xochi Flores, Chuy Sandoval and Juan Perez
Join a lively performance and interactive workshop led by Cambalache, featuring Maestro Cesar Castro, Xochi
Flores, Chuy Sandoval and Juan Perez. Audiences will learn about the origins of Veracruz-based musical tradition son jarocho, its roots and how it made its way to Los Angeles. Participate in a fandango with verse, dance and percussion to celebrate the beauty of this multigenerational and participatory tradition.