Buhmann on Art: Carol Rama at the New Museum

Installation view of “Carol Rama: Antibodies.” Photo by Maris Hutchinson/EPW Studio.

BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN | This is the first New York museum survey featuring the fascinating Italian artist Carol Rama (1918-2015) and the largest presentation of her work in the US to date. Though her oeuvre has been largely overlooked in contemporary art discourses, she has still managed to achieve a cult status of sorts. Recently, she has attracted renewed attention from artists and scholars, especially after a stunning retrospective exhibition was held at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin (2016/2017).

“Carol Rama: Antibodies” brings together over 150 of Rama’s paintings, objects, and works on paper, embracing primarily examples of her figurative work (she also worked in abstraction). With an at times Surrealist twist, Rama created fantastical anatomies that reflected ideas of desire, sacrifice, repression, and liberation. In its enchanting eccentricity, these works recall another Italian artist (and Fellini actor), Ele D’Artagnan (1911-1987), whose figures were equally liberated, erotic, ambiguous, and rendered in brilliant colors. Self-taught, neither Rama nor D’Artagnan had thankfully ever been schooled into conformity.

Carol Rama: “Annunciazione [Annunciation]” (1985. Mixed mediums on framed canvas. 12 5/8 x 18 7/8 in.). Photo by Pino dell’Aquila © Archivio Carol Rama, Turin.
Looking at Rama’s images, one cannot help but be in awe of her talent and courage to embrace such a radical subject as desiring women with wagging tongues in a rather conservative time.

On view through Sept. 10 at the New Museum 
(235 Bowery
btw. Stanton & Rivington Sts.). Museum hours: Tues.–Sun., 11am–6pm, Thurs, 11am–9pm. Admission: $18
($15 seniors, $12 students, free for ages 18 and under, pay as you wish every Thurs. from 7–9pm). Call 212-219-1222 or visit newmuseum.org.

Carol Rama: “Spazio anche più che tempo [Even More Space Than Time]” (1970. Rubber tire collage on canvas. 47 1/4 x 59 in.). Photo by Pino dell’Aquila © Archivio Carol Rama, Turin.