A first glance at one of Robert Ransom’s paintings may show the viewer a backyard barbeque or roadside diner; the characters seem comical and somewhat blocky, each straight-legged female figure appears only slightly less awkward than her stocky, male counterparts. But upon closer evaluations, the work reveals its complexities in process and construction. Ransoms scenes convey a simplicity of subject and form that is successful in making the viewer believe that painting is easy. But Ransom’s paintings are not easy. Each canvas is layered with coats of paint before the actual painting ever begins. White gesso, black and yellow layers/ dark against light; quartered zones; varnish. This time-consuming process may limit his paintings in number, but they have also released him from the confines of mass-production, unlike the pop artists his work is so often compared to.
Like Warhol, and Lichtenstein, Ransom completely defines himself through his Americana imagery. Through the process of combining pop art and art deco imagery he melds the two periods of time together to symbolize American art of his paintings. Much of what Ransom communicates revolves around the American Dream – fishing, hunting, swimming, horseback riding, and golfing. These outdoor, bucolic activities are a primary part of his work. Ransom also sets himself apart through his stylized and elongated characters: the cubical women and men also seem to relate to the work of the WPA artists.
His retro style refers not only to the imagery and form of his painting, but to the old Flemish master’s techniques of layering and glazing that he uses to create three-dimensional imagery. Ransom paints works that are alive, moving, and three-dimensional, even though they have the same basic pop outline as Warhol and Lichtenstein.
Oil on Canvas
Ransom uses forced perspective, maximum intensity primary colors applied to oil glazes. He creates familiar yet haunting backgrounds to set the stage for the expressiveness of the figures, surrogates of human actions that are used as triggers for the physical and emotional response of the viewer.