Critics’ Picks

Carol Rama, Feticci (Fetishes), 2003, watercolor and pastel on found paper, 9 1/4 x 13 1/8".

Carol Rama, Feticci (Fetishes), 2003, watercolor and pastel on found paper, 9 1/4 x 13 1/8".

New York

Carol Rama

Maccarone | 630 Greenwich Street
630 Greenwich Street
October 25–December 20, 2008

At ninety, the self-taught Italian artist Carol Rama is a beacon of change. This long-overdue miniretrospective makes a strong case for resistance—to a specific movement (such as Surrealism or arte povera), to any one medium, and to a particular iconography. As writer and poet Edoardo Sanguineti aptly noted in 1965, Rama’s art is “refined brut and cultured naïf,” and all of the thirty-six works in this exhibition, which date from 1943 through 2005 and range dramatically from hard-edge abstraction and drawings laced with erotic symbols to bricolage and mixed-media sculpture, showcase this curious combination. In one of Rama’s most notoriously explicit paintings, Dorina, 1943, a nude woman with a long, languid tongue and a Louise Brooks–style bob rests passively inert while a snake slivers out of her vagina. Installed nearby, the most recent offering here, Metamorfosi (Metamorphosis), 2005, depicts a pair of loosely rendered feminine legs sheathing a hairy red phallus. While the specters of Freud and French feminism linger strongly in the galleries, Rama takes a more humorous and, at times, absurd approach to sexuality and gender. In Feticci (Fetishes), 2003, a blue high-heeled shoe and slender toes (from an invisible foot) are rendered on a found piece of upside-down paper. Rama was a muse to Man Ray and Andy Warhol; she is one the artists celebrated in Le Tigre’s pop song “Hot Topic” and was the recipient of a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement from the Venice Biennale. Although she’s well loved, she’s not well known—but in all likelihood, akin to her transformative practice, that is about to change.