CAROL RAMA | Untitled 1967



Fergus McCaffrey
Untitled, 1967
Ink, doll's eyes and glue on cardboard
Signed and dated 'Carol Rama 1967' bottom left corner recto in ink
23 x 19 1/4 x 1 3/4 in. (framed)
15 x 11 x 1/16 in.


The Artist, Turin
Private Collection, Italy
Fergus McCaffrey, New York

Carol Rama was born in Turin, Italy, in 1918. A self-taught artist, Rama refused adherence to any one specific style, method, or group during her seven-decade career. Beginning in the 1930s, Rama began to create an aesthetic vocabulary filled with icons that were linked to issues of real-life mental illness, financial ruin, and suicide, woven together with a mythologized biography. In the early 1960s, Rama was influenced by writer and friend Edoardo Sanguineti and created a series, titled Bricolages by Sanguineti, using materials such as glass eyes, medical syringes, animal claws, metal scraps, and decorative beads to create intensely visceral and uncanny works on paper and board.

In 1970, there was a decisive switch with the introduction of rubber, and this material would come to dominate her practice for the next decade. Rama’s father had owned a bicycle tire factory in Turin before his suicide, and the worn, punctured, and repaired rubber tires in these Gomma works function much like aged human skin. At times, the bicycle tires are left hanging, deflated like flaccid intestines from a phallic hanger (derived from a sculpture that Picasso had given her), in a more bodily and transgressive use of the material.

During the 1980s, Rama returned to figuration and an unapologetic representation of orifices and sexualized body parts, often created upon architectural or engineering plans. In the 1990s, news reports of an epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease) in Europe attracted Rama’s attention and empathy. Embedded in the series La mucca pazza (The Mad Cow) are issues of deviance, madness, death, and sexuality. In these images, Rama reconnects with her work of the 1930s, updated to reflect the horrible reality that surrounded her in later life.

Rama was the subject of a European retrospective entitled The Passion According to Carol Rama, on view from early 2015, and travelled to the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; the Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Tapiola, Finland; the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; and Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin. She was awarded the Golden Lion award at the Venice Bienniale in 2003.

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