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An Art Historian Encounters a Hybrid Global History at Home: Alfredo Ramos Martinez’s Designs for Sacred Spaces

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image of Religion and the Arts

‭Southern California’s hidden treasures include two church interiors containing elements designed by Alfredo Ramos Martinez (1871–1946). This Mexican-born artist trained in France, returned to take an activist role in Mexican revolutionary culture, and migrated to the United States in 1929. For sixteen years, his talents were in demand among members of the Hollywood elite. In 1934, he produced the fresco murals at the Santa Barbara Cemetery Chapel, a jewel of Spanish Revival architecture. His images crossed over traditional boundaries between the sacred and the profane. He created odes to human rights and suffering humanity, depicting Christ and his mother as indigenous peasants with dark-skinned New World ethnicity. A decade later in 1946, Ramos sketched designs for his final projects at St. John the Evangelist Church in Los Angeles: a series of stained glass windows representing fourteen multiethnic saints as well as incomplete oil painted Stations of the Cross that recall his earlier pictures of suffering humanity. The architectural setting—a modernist church with stripped-down forms and materials of concrete, steel, and neon—announces a radically transformed post-war industrial culture. The contrast of these two aesthetics, the Spanish Revival and the modernist, demonstrates an evolution in liturgical forms as Californians came to grips with global migrations and an evolving modernist identity.‬

Affiliations: 1: University of Alaska, Fairbanks

10.1163/15685292-01801008
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/content/journals/10.1163/15685292-01801008
2014-01-01
2018-04-20

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