Dee Dee Ramone's artistic side on display in NYC

Barbara Ramone Zampini, the widow of Dee Dee Ramone, stands in front of a self-portrait by the late punk rocker at an exhibition at the Chelsea Hotel in New York on December 8, 2014 (AFP Photo/Shaun Tandon)

Dee Dee Ramone's artistic side on display in New York

By Shaun Tandon 23 minutes ago

New York (AFP) - In one painting, the Ramones stand together on top of a globe as if the band is larger than life. In another, the Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious is chased out of the infamous Chelsea Hotel.

The paintings are part of a new exhibition in New York of Dee Dee Ramone, the bassist and songwriter of the legendary punk band, who had a little-known visual-arts side that he pursued in the years before his death in 2002.

True to the punk ethos that the Ramones pioneered, the paintings show little formal training. But they are forcefully direct in their expression, depicting both the attitude and life of rock 'n' roll in the 1970s and 1980s.

The painting is cartoonish, with characters drawn with outsized physical features. Most of the work depicts the Ramones or other bands -- most frequently fellow punk icons the Sex Pistols, whose Britain by storm a few years after the Ramones' debut.

Ramone, who struggled with depression and drug abuse, sometimes painted himself triumphant with his bass but in other self-portrayals appears macabre with tattoos of scorpions and skulls over his body.

"He would paint himself depending on how he felt that day," said his widow Barbara Ramone Zampini, who organized the exhibition.

The paintings have previously gone on display in Los Angeles, where the street artist Shepard Fairey has championed his work, but the exhibition is the first in New York.

"He didn't really have any art show before he passed away. He would have paintings and sell them because we didn't have any money," Zampini told AFP.

"I thought it was about time to bring it over to New York because this was his hometown."

Zampini, who is originally from Argentina, said she hoped to bring the exhibition later to Europe and Latin America.

The Ramones released their first album in 1976, sending shocks through the music world through the band's strident energy and unabashed simplicity, with most songs lasting around two minutes.

The band, whose original members have all died, had enormous influence on rock music's development. U2 wrote a song about the Ramones on the band's latest album, with the Irish superstars recalling being mesmerized in their youth at seeing the New York punks in Dublin.

The exhibition, which opened Wednesday and runs until January 1, has a fitting location -- the storefront gallery of the Chelsea Hotel, where Ramone lived with Zampini and which he profiled in a novel.

The hotel, which is under renovation, became legendary for the famous musicians who stayed there and their wild antics. Most notoriously, Nancy Spungen, the girlfriend of Sid Vicious, was found stabbed to death in the hotel in 1978 under murky circumstances.

Jerry Only, bassist of the punk band Misfits, recalled that he would see Ramone's art on display in his room at the Chelsea Hotel.

"He needed an outlet when he wasn't playing or writing music," said Only, who showed up to the exhibition's opening reception in his signature leather vest with metal spikes.

The exhibition also includes a collection of pictures of the band, including a series of black-and-white shots taken on the New York subway by noted rock photographer Bob Gruen.

"Dee Dee was just getting into painting," Gruen said. "He could have gone on and had a real career but he passed away, so it's too bad people didn't know what he could do."

He was also the best rapper ever!!