Carol Rama’s expressive work is a direct result of the personal tragedies in her life. “I paint to heal myself,” she has said. Her autobiographical, explicitly female approach mirrors that of other artists of her time, such as Louise Bourgeois. Considered too radical for the fascist dominated Italy she grew up in, her work didn’t receive international attention until the end of the 90s. She received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale in 2003, and her work is now shown in major art galleries around the world.
A self-taught artist, she began painting watercolours as a form of therapy. In 1933, when Rama was 15, her mother was admitted to a psychiatric clinic. She has stated that she began her “vulgar” drawings then, fascinated by the female patients who wandered the wards half naked. These transgressive, psychosexual images challenged state censorship, and her first exhibition, held in Turin in 1945, was shut down.
In the 60s she began to use psychologically charged objects in her work, including animal claws and doll’s eyes. This led to her celebrated paintings made from bicycle tyres in the 70s. Elegant, abstract and minimal, they were related to other important art of the time. Rama has said that she was attracted to the sensual, flesh like quality of rubber. The tyres also refer to the bicycle factory that her father owned. In 1942 he committed suicide after the factory failed and he was declared bankrupt.
This exhibition precedes a large touring retrospective of Carol Rama’s work initiated by MACBA in Barcelona and co-produced with the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Espoo Museum of Modern Art in Finland and the Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Torino (GAM). This smaller selection of work at Nottingham Contemporary, which focuses on the early watercolours, the bricolages, the tyre paintings and the most recent works on diagrams and plans, is presented in close dialogue with Danh Vo’s exhibition, and a few of Vo’s works are presented amongst Rama’s.
Photographs of her legendary studio, taken by Bepi Ghiotti, will be shown in The Study, off Gallery 1.
In addition, Italian artist Chiara Fumai will present a new performance in homage to Carol Rama within the exhibition on Saturday 19 July, Wednesday 27 August and Sunday 28 September.