Carol Rama – The freaky cult creative who depicted anguish and angst in amazing ways
Exploring fetishism, freakyness, abstract form and full-on torment, cult painter Carol Rama’s retrospective at the New Museum is a total knockout.
Carol Rama’s ravishing works are currently on display at the New Museum in NYC. In the wake of the excellent exhibit ‘Inside the Mind’ — a quad-fecta of female artists shown in Venice and New York at the beginning of the summer — comes ‘Antibodies’, a licentious and killer corpus from the Italian avant-garde sparkplug. Rama produced a scintillating portfolio of psychosexual salvos over the last six decades that will make you smile and spew; her watercolor abstractions and alchemical acrylics are truly bonkers and breathtaking, replete with electroshock aesthetics and fierce, in-your-face feminism. Done from the 1930s on, the semi-psychotic artist made manic, ultra-cool and unhinged works that are hilarious, delirious and downright gross (in a good way, of course).
From sexual trauma and surreal serpents to jarring, rubber-made thing-a-ma-jigs that reference beastiality and asylum patients (her mom was admitted to a mental hospital during the Great Depression and her dad committed suicide), Rama excelled at portraying existential angst in all its variants. At the age of 8 she said she was “scared of existence.” She witnessed her father’s business implode during Turin’s tumultuous economic times and felt “overwhelmingly traumatized” by Europe’s iffy political-economy and totalitarian takeover.
“When I was twelve years old I went almost every day to a psychiatric clinic to see someone, and there a great happiness was born because I didn’t understand that I was in a madhouse environment and the freedom I found in these people with their tongues sticking out, their legs apart or crouching down or in some other position: by now any person was more important than my family, I had abdicated and as it were renounced it. That’s where my early works originated from.”
After dropping out of art school she immersed herself into Italy’s dark underworld, seeking out hedonistic and creative pursuits that would inspire her as an artist until her death in 2015 (she lived to the nonagenarian age of 97).
“I went around to all my friends. There I found the shits, the idiots. The idiots who were making a piece of furniture, a paper glued to the wall. And they always used to make me do sketches in the servants’ toilet, because it was sexy. There was always a vagina and a dick, a vagina and a dick, or a urinal, or a sink. There was always a chair where the guy with the wide legs used to watch films, but he was excited. That’s why he had his legs wide. And I enjoyed myself doing these things.”
In 1945, Rama’s debut solo show in Turin was shut down by police due to obscenity and crassness. Viewed as an artist with a dangerous subversive streak, she would go on to hold more shows in Italy throughout her career, depicting a wide range of monsters and rogues designed to reject the ideals imposed by Mussolini and his fascist ilk.
“I didn’t have any models for my painting. I didn’t need any, having already four or five disasters in the family, six or seven tragic love stories, an invalid in the house, my father who committed suicide at age fifty-two because he had become poor and been made bankrupt and no longer had the life he wanted, and I, it’s very sad, felt his guilt. They’re all things that were enough for me to have subjects to work on. I didn’t have any painters as masters, the sense of sin is my master.”
This exhibit is fucking exhilarating. Go to the New Museum now!
Images: Pino Dell’Aquila + Carol Rama + The New Museum
VIVISXN – Art + Culture