Collage by Carol Rama, close up view.

Carol Rama

Italian artist

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 government censorship practices 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 clinic, and shortly after her father went bankrupt. Her earliest known work, Nonna Carolina at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Turin, was painted in 1936, and was followed by many watercolors painted on recycled paper.  During this time, the family struggled through difficult times and lasting economic hardships, and by 1938, Carol Rama started creating watercolor paintings depicting limbless women, clinic wards with restraining beds, bodies copulating, and images of her sick mother.

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 his friend, the painter, Felice Casorati, Carol Rama had her first solo show at Galleria Faber. This first exhibition included several  watercolor images that were perceived, by some, as scandalous and directly against the Italian state censorship policies. 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. read more

Carol Rama worked assiduously during the following decades 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. In the 1950s, she 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. These works were widely known as “bricolages,” a term coined by her friend Sanguineti. In the 1970s, she switched to abstract painting and included wire strands and a fair amount of rubber from bicycle tubing and car tires into her works to simulate skin and hair. 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.

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.

Last updated: May 24, 2019

For more information on Carol Rama, visit the following:
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

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