FOG Design + Art Spotlight: Carol Rama
2018 marks Lévy Gorvy’s second year participating in FOG Design + Art in San Francisco. The physicality inherent to our artists’ practices is evident in nearly each work included in the booth, from Enrico Castellani’s shaped canvases to Robert Ryman’s dense impastos. A wide variety of media comprises many of the works presented, ranging from the stained limestone and corrugated steel of Terry Adkins’ sculptures, to the taxidermy glass eye and flayed rubber tires of Carol Rama’s assemblage paintings. Uniting this diverse presentation is the prerogative each artist undertakes to engage a visual language rooted in the material concerns of their practice, resulting in a rich exhibition of innovative techniques and unique voices.
From the early 1960s onward, themes of the body and discarded objects re-emerged in Rama’s work not by means of representation, but as material itself. This method is now widely referred to as “bricolage.” Rama applied paint in viscous, splattered configurations as if it were bodily fluid, and made collages in which taxidermist’s and doll glass eyes, surgical tubes, syringes, and electrical cords evoke organisms in various stages of life and decay.
Enjoy this spotlight on Rama’s Bricolage (1964), on view at Lévy Gorvy’s presentation at FOG Design + Art, Booth 305.
Defiantly deviant, Rama’s art is animated by raw, maverick energy. Alternately described as “sensurrealism,” “organic abstraction,” and “porn brut,” it moves between inspiration and madness, exulting in states of abjection and obsession. Inextricable from her womanhood, Rama’s oeuvre stands out in a maledominated art world for its frank exploration of feminine and queer desires. Although counting such artists and writers as Felice Casorati, Pablo Picasso, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italo Calvino, and Carlo Mollino as friends, she maintained a resolute autonomy, surpassing available critical vocabularies that sought to contain her idiosyncratic vision. As philosopher Paul Preciado sums, Rama’s art is untimely. “The work of Carol Rama is a phantom limb whose sensations return in order to reclaim another history. … She returns to undo the dominant narratives, reclaiming other discourses and another time,” he explains. By turns perverse and subversive, her work stands ahead of its moment, anticipating present-day debates on the aesthetic intersections of sexuality, representation, and power.
In 1962, Rama’s close friend, the poet Edoardo Sanguineti, gave the name “bricolage” to this series of work: a title which she soon adopted as her own. Each Bricolage operates like one of Sanguineti’s disjunctive poems, carefully accumulating and juxtaposing materials to achieve a strange somatic charge. Marked by their excessive, even disturbing, materiality, each conceives the pictorial support as a quasi-body teeming with desire. Scabrous and uneven, this 1964 example invites associations at once fleshy and infernal. Its metal impasto may suggest a spurting wound or a molten emission from the underworld. By turns menacing and embattled, it recalls the experiments of Rama’s contemporaries, such as Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, and Yves Klein, who committed similar acts of violence against the picture plane, variously slashing, suturing, and scorching its surface. Affixed with industrial metal shavings, it exudes aggression. In so doing, it registers both the acuity of Rama’s attack on aesthetic propriety and the intensity of her emotional life, which she here communicates to her viewer in material form. As she insisted: “Rage has always been my life condition. Fury and violence are what drive me to paint.”
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