Ramon Muxter, gonzo street photographer

  • Article by: MARY ABBE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 17, 2007 - 8:36 PM

Known for black-and-white and celebrity photos, he was a raconteur who lived a roller-coaster life.

Minneapolis photographer Ramon Muxter, a Twin Cities raconteur who was nationally known for his gritty black-and-white photos of bikers, gamblers, pool halls and whorehouses, was found dead in his northeast Minneapolis apartment Wednesday. The Hennepin County medical examiner's office said the cause of his death is unknown, but not suspicious. He was 62.

"He was a sort of gonzo street photographer literally shooting off the cuff," said Christian Peterson, associate curator of photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

"I've heard stories of the old days when he'd be in bars in Dinkytown and he'd actually throw his camera into the air to get chance photographs."

Muxter was a staff photographer at the museum in the late 1960s or early 1970s, and the museum owns about 80 of his images. Besides pictures of marginal characters, they include bulldogs, birds, a corpse, New York celebrities (including novelist William Burroughs, Mae West, Madonna), and Muxter's family and friends. In 1973, he published a book of his photos titled "Fun Friends and Relatives."When Ray talked about a whorehouse he meant it; he'd go there," said artist Jeff Petrich, a friend for more than 40 years. "Lots of men talk about it but won't go; he was the real thing. A lot of us just admired him for all the life threatening risks he took, and he'd just laugh his way through."

Born Sept. 1, 1945, in Minneapolis to a working class family of Norwegian heritage, Muxter was named Ramon, a version of his father's name, Raymond, but he was always called "Ray" or "Raymond." He attended the Minneapolis College of Art and Design from 1966 to 1967.

From about 1973 to 1983, he lived in New York City, supporting himself in part by building darkrooms for other photographers. He took most of his celebrity photos then, often taking advantage of chance encounters to insert himself into the picture, too.

Locally he had shows at the now defunct Barry Richard Gallery in the early 1980s, at Bockley Gallery in 1994 and at Weinstein Gallery in 1996. His work was also shown in the Netherlands, Toronto, Denver and at a college in Georgia.

In recent years, alcoholism affected his health, friends said, but it never curbed his raucous, sexually provocative humor. At his best, he was "fabulously entertaining," said Peterson. But he also came "real close to being a sexist," said Petrich.

"He had a roller-coaster life; he was as extreme as he was tender," said Richard Brewer, another longtime artist friend. "He was a little boy inside this maniac pool-hall brawler."

What would have been his final show was to have opened in New York on Sept. 13, 2001, but it was canceled after the events of 9/11, said Peterson. "Tragedy had a way of finding Mr. Muxter," he added.

Friends are planning a memorial service.

Mary Abbe • 612-673-4431

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