Carol Rama 

“I did not have painters as masters; the sense of sin is my master.”

Carol Rama

In subversive work spanning seven decades, Carol Rama (1918–2015) anticipated debates on gender, sexuality, and representation. Self-taught and working outside cultural movements, she depicted chimerical, errant bodies expressing desire, repression, and independence. Though her category-defying work was dismissed and censored for much of her lifetime, it has been celebrated in recent years for its radical dissidence, formal experimentation, and vibrant oscillation between figuration and abstraction.

Rama was born and died in Turin, where she worked until her nineties alongside writers (Edoardo Sanguineti), musicians (Massimo Mila), and architects (Carlo Mollino). Her earliest watercolor paintings of the 1930s picture psychosexual fantasies inspired by her mother’s stay at a psychiatric institution. In 1945, the Italian government shuttered a Turin exhibition of these works for their obscenity. Rama engaged themes of the body and abjection through her materials in the ’60s. Embedding glass eyes, human teeth, and syringes into canvas, she inspired Sanguineti to coin the term “bricolage.” In the ’70s, she made corporeal sculptures from the rubber innards of bike tires, referencing her suicidal father’s bicycle factory. Following the critical acclaim her early work received with curator Lea Vergine’s The Other Half of the Avant-Garde at Palazzo Reale, Milan, in 1980, Rama returned to figuration.

Among Rama’s many solo exhibitions are, recently, the retrospective Carol Rama: Antibodies, organized by the New Museum, New York (2017), and the traveling surveys The Passion According to Carol Rama (2015–16; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Finland; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; and Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin); Carol Rama (2004–05; Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin; Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Italy; BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, England; and Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck, Austria). Her work resides in such collections as the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Tate, London. In 2003, she was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale.


Selected Artworks

    • Carol Rama
    • Definizione d’usura, 1977
    • Rubber inner tubes, paper, and gouache on canvas
    • 21⅝ × 29½ inches (55 × 75 cm)
    • Carol Rama
    • Arsenale 71, 1971
    • Rubber inner tubes on fabric
    • 31½ × 39½ inches (80 × 100 cm)
    • Carol Rama
    • Senza titolo (Martin Luther King), 1968
    • Enamel, spray paint, glue, stamped letters, and dolls’ eyes on paper
    • 27⁹⁄₁₆ × 21¼ inches (70 × 54 cm)
    • Carol Rama
    • Bricolage, 1966
    • Hide, lacquer, enamel, and synthetic resin on canvas
    • 40 × 28 inches (102 × 72 cm)

Selected publications

Selected Press