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Collage by Carol Rama, close up view.

Carol Rama


“Causing outrage around myself became almost an obligation”

Carol Rama

Carol Rama (born April 17, 1918, Turin, Italy—died September 25, 2015, Turin, Italy) was a self-taught Italian artist whose work represents unique talent, strong sense of independence, and a courageous artistic character. Due to her unconventional and often controversial practice, and to societal prejudices and the government’s censorship of mid-century Italy, the pivotal importance of her work was not recognized until the 1980s.

Carol Rama was the youngest daughter of Marta Pugliara and bicycle manufacturer Amabile Rama. When she was 15 years old, her mother was admitted to a psychiatric ward, and shortly after her father went bankrupt. Although according to Rama’s own account, she started to paint in 1932, when she was only 14 years old, her earliest known work, the watercolor Nonna Carolina at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Turin, was painted in 1936.

During this time, Rama’s family struggled through the mental-health difficulties of her mother and lasting economic hardships. By 1938, Carol Rama had started creating watercolors that referenced her frequent visits to the psychiatric ward to see her mother and that were highly critical of the institutionalized treatment of mental illness. These watercolors often depicted limbless female bodies, women restrained to their beds, prosthetics, and images of her sick mother. These images were more than anything, an altered and subversive narrative that Rama created against the reality of the ward and one that was clearly at odds with the then-prevailing fascist female ideal of fertility and maternity.

On April 1942, Rama’s father unexpectedly died, of an apparent but unconfirmed suicide, an event that, by her own recollection, would mark her personality and make her enter a period of profound and prolonged grief. In 1945, after a long encouragement from her friend, the painter, Felice Casorati, Carol Rama had her first solo show at Galleria Faber in Turin. This first exhibition included several of the watercolors that Rama had created since 1936, and was perceived, by some, as scandalous and directly against the Italian state censorship policies. As a result, the exhibition was closed and 27 watercolors were confiscated–some of which were lost. If this first exhibition made evident Rama’s unique artistic expression and unapologetic strength, it also delayed the correct assessment and rightful consideration of her work until many decades later.

Portrait of Carol Rama circa 1946
Portrait of Carol Rama circa 1946

Carol Rama worked assiduously during the following years and exhibited her work throughout Italy. She participated in the 1948, 1950, and 1956 Venice Biennales and befriended surrealist Man Ray and Italian poet Edoardo Sanguineti. During this time, she abandoned the figurative style and narrative tone of her earlier watercolors, and adopted geometric abstraction and joined the Movimiento Arte Concreta (MAC) in Turin.

By the late 1960s, she was applying thick layers of paint and material and incorporating such objects as syringes, mechanical parts, and taxidermic eyes into her works. She also re-introduced the theme of the body, especially the female body, into these works that were widely known as “bricolages,” a term coined by her friend the Sanguineti.

In the 1970s, she adopted abstract painting and included wire strands, a fair amount of rubber from bicycle tubing, and car tires into her works. But, in spite of utilizing an abstract language, she did not abandon the animalistic and human-body themes of her prior work; as the wires simulated hairs and she treated the rubber as a taxidermist would treat skin. If during this time she coincided with her fellow Italian artist members of the Arte Povera movement in aspects such as the selection of everyday materials and the traces of nature and industrial language, Carol Rama’s tonality, subversiveness, and specific concerns with the body and sexuality set her aside from that movement. During this time, she also befriended many artists and writers, including Felice Casorati, Pablo Picasso, Italo Calvini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Carlo Mollino, as well as American actor Orson Welles and American artist Andy Warhol.

By the 1997, at the age of 79, she started a new phase with a series of works that coincided with the world outbreak of the “Mad Cow” (Mucca Pazza) disease. According to her own narrative, she was impacted by the idea of large number of animals being destined to be slaughtered to avoid contamination, and she would jokingly mentioned that she was also a mucca pazza – a mad cow. For these abstract works, she continued to use fabrics, rubber, and paint, but instead of approaching the theme of the human body, her concerned was the animal body.

Italian artist Carol Rama during an interview in 2004
Picture of the artist Carol Rama during an interview in 2004

At the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003, Rama was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2004, she had retrospective exhibitions at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin and the Museo di Arte Contemporanea di Rovereto in Trento. In 2015, the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) and the Paris Museum of Modern Art (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris) organized the first retrospective of her work, The Passion According to Carol Rama. In 2017, the New Museum in New York City organized a solo exhibition titled Carol Rama Antibodies.

For more information on Carol Rama, visit the following:

Carol Rama MACBA
Carol Rama New Museum
The Sad, Cstatic Passions of Carol Rama. The Atlantic Magazine
Carol Rama’s restraint desire at Hyperallegic.com
Archivo Carol Rama

Last updated: October 18, 2019

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works


exhibitions


Solo Exhibitions:

1945

  • Gallery Faber, Turin.

1947

  • Gallery il Bosco, Turin. Gallery Il Borgo, Turin.

1948

  • Gallery il Bosco, Turin.

1950

  • Gallery Ritrovo dell’Art Clug, Rome.

1955

  • Libreria Salto, Mailand/Milan.

1957

  • Gallery La Bussola, Turin.

1959

  • Gallery La Bussola, Turin.

1960

  • Gallery La Bussola, Turin.

1964

  • Gallery Stampatori, Turin; Gallery La Carabaga, Sampierdarena, Genova.

1965

  • Museo Civico, Pistoria.

1966

  • Gallery Le Lutrin, Lyon.

1967

  • Gallery Numero, Rome.

1971

  • Gallery La Bussola, Turin.

1972

  • Gallery Anthea, Rome.

1974

  • Gallery Il Fauno, Turin.

1975

  • Palazzo Braschi, Rome.

1976

  • Carol Rama, Luogo e Segni, Gallery Luciano Anselmino, Milan.
  • Carol Rama, Luogo e Segni, Gallery Il Capricorno, Venice.

1978

  • Gallery Weber, Turin.

1980

  • Carol Rama, Acquerelli 1939-1941 – Opere 1966-1980, Gallery Giancarlo Salzano, Turin.

1985

  • Retrospective, Gallery Sagrato del Duomo, Milan.

1987

  • Works from 1937-1987, Gallery dell’Oca, Rome.

1988

  • Casa de Mantegna, Mantua.

1989

  • Retrospective, Circolo degli Artisti, Turin.

1990

  • Gallery Uxa, Novara.

1991

  • Oli e Disegni 1940-1948, Gallery Giancarlo Salzano, Turin.

1993

  • XLV Biennale Internazionale d’Arte, Venice.

1994

  • Gallery Monica de Cardenas, Milan; Carol Rama. Del presente al passato 1994-1936, Gallery Sprovieri, Rome.

1995

  • La Stance di Carolina 1939-1994. Gallery Otto Arte Contemporanea, Bologna.

1996

  • Carol Rama, Opere dal 1943 al 1983, Gallery Del Ponte, Turin; Carol Rama, Idilli, Gallery Franco Masoero, Turin.

1997

  • Gallery Giancarlo Salzano, Turin; Works on Paper: 1930s to Present, Esso Gallery, New York.

1998

  • Retrospective, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
  • The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Carol Rama, Incisioni recenti, Gallery Franco Masoero, Turin.

1999

  • Omaggio a Carol Rama, Gallery Civica d’Arte Moderna, Turin.
  • Carol Rama, L’opera grafica e le mucca pazza, Spazio comunale Slara, Bologna.
  • Carol Rama, L’opera incisa 1944-1998, Enter Fiera, Arte Fiera, Bologna.

2000

  • Calro Rama, Opere 1936-2000. Retrospective exhibition IX Biennale Donna, Palazzo Massari, Ferrara.
  • Louise Bourgeois e Carol Rama, Gallery Franco Masoero, Turin.
  • Un duo en solo, Estampes 1942-1948, 1974-2000 Carol Rama & Louise Bourgeois, Musée  Jenisch, Vevey.

2002

  • Carol Rama, Opere recenti 2000-2002, Gallery Franco Masoero, Turin.
  • Carol Rama, Rosemarie Trockel, Gallery Anne De Villepoix, Paris.

2003

  • 50th Biennale Internazionale d’Arte, Leone d’Oro, Venice.
  • Carol Rama, Il rosso e il nero, Gallery Carlina, Turin.
  • Carol Rama, disegni, collages, dipinti 1998-2003, Gallery Franco Masoero, Turin.

2004

  • Retrospective exhibition, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin.
  • MART, Trento – Rovereto; Baltic Museum, Newcastle.
  • L’anima di carne, Gallery Santamarta, Milano
  • Appassionata, Ulmer Museum, Innsbruck
  • Gallery Stamparte, Bologna.

2005

  • Gallery Silvia Steinek, Viena.
  • Fa vissuto, Carol Rama, Gallery MAM Mario Mautoner, Salzburg.
  • Il disegno prescritto, Fondazione Achille Marazza, Borgomanero.
  • Gallery Franco Masoero, Torino.

2006

  • Noi Facciamo loro guardano, Carol Rama e Antoinio Marras, Villa Contastimo, Alghero.
  • Seduzioni, Gallery Ute Parduhn, Düsseldorf.
  • La coda della cometa, Gallery Del-l’Incissione, Brescia.
  • Genius, Picasso. L’Italia, L’Europa. Con un omaggio a Carolrama, Fondazione Art Museo – Villa Ponti Arona.
  • L’opera incisa 1944-2005, Gallery Internazionale d’Arte Moderna di Ca’Pasaro, Venice.
  • Gallery Franco Masoero, Torino.

2007

  • Passiorama, Villa Rufolo, Ravello.
  • Opere su carta, Museo Materiali Minimi d’Arte Contmporanea MMMAC, Paestum.
  • Gallery Karin Sachs, Munich; Incisioni e disegni, Gallery Michele Balmelli, Bellinzona
  • Carol, sempre, Gallery Carlina, Torino.
  • Gallery Franco Masoero, Torino.

2008

  • Eroica, Gallery Steinek, Viena.
  • Harold De Bree, Site-spefic work & paintings, Carol Rama, Gallery West, Den Haag.
  • L’occhio degli occhi, Opera dal 1937 al 2005, Palazzo Ducale, Genova.

2012

  • Carol Rama: Spazio anche più che Tempo, Gallery Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin.

2014

  • The Passion According to Carol Rama, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, MACBA.

2015

  • La passion selon Carol Rama, Musée D’Arte Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
  • The Passion According to Carol Rama, Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).

2016

  • Inside Carol Rama, Eden Eden, Berlin.
  • Ferite della memoria, selected works, Gallery Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin.
  • Carol Rama, Selected works, Gallery Fergus McCaffrey.

2017

  • Carol Rama: Antibodies, New Museum, New York.
  • Carol Rama: Spazio anche più che Tempo, Palazzo Canova, Venice.

bibliography


Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer
Carol Rama Antibodies
New Museum
New York, NY. (2017)

 

Erika Költzsch
Carol Rama
Galerie Haas
Zurich, Switzerland (2016)

 

Pierre Bal-blanc, Bettina M. Busse, Maurizio Cattelan, Anne Dressen, Collectif
La passion selon Carol Rama
Paris Musées
Paris, France. (2015)

 

Ghiotti & Munici
Caro Rama. Il magazzino dell’anima
SKIRA
Torino, Italy, 2014

 

Carol Rama, Maria Cristina Mundici, Bepi Ghiotti
Inside Carol Rama
Skira
Milano, Italy. (2014)

 

Böse Zungen
Carol Rama
Kehrer Verlag
Heidelberg, Germany. (2012)

 

Besson Gianna
Carol Rama – Casta Sfrontata Stella
RINP
Torino, Italy (2012)

 

Rudi Fuchs
Carol Rama. Catalogo della mostra Amsterdam, 18 aprile – giugno 1988)
Charta
(2010)

 

Flavio Arensi, Alexandra Wetzel
Carol Rama: Self Portrait
Allemandi & C
Torino, Italy. (2008)

 

Guido Curto, Francesco Bonami, Judith Russi Kirshner
Carol Rama
Skira
Milano, Italy. (2004)

 

Silvia Eiblmayer, Brigitte Reinhardt, Edoardo Sanguineti
Carol Rama: Appasionata
Hatje Cantz
Berlin, Germany (2004)

 

Lea Vergine
Carol Rama. Milano, Sagrato del Duomo
Mazzotta
Milano, Italy. (1985)