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Carol Rama, Autorattristatrice n. 9, 1969, glass eye, spray paint, mixed media on canvas, 39 3/8 × 31 1/2". © Archivio Carol Rama, Torino.

Carol Rama

Fergus McCaffrey

Carol Rama, Autorattristatrice n. 9, 1969, glass eye, spray paint, mixed media on canvas, 39 3/8 × 31 1/2". © Archivio Carol Rama, Torino.

Tongues, serpents, penises, orifices, and eyes populate the wonderful and terrifying world of Carol Rama’s art. Lewd and menacing, they’re there even when they’re not—one senses them lurking just outside the frame, smothered by strips of tire rubber, or abstracted into scabby, flaccid shapes. Rama (1918–2015) was born in Turin and worked there her entire life, producing paintings, drawings, and assemblages with protofeminist, antifascist vigor in an untrained, sophisticated style that defies easy categorization. Her frank sexual content, Surrealism-inflected figuration, and evocative abstraction elicit parallels to Louise Bourgeois; her raw depictions of agony, aggression, and embattled femininity can be compared to Frida Kahlo’s. But the stunning, funny painting that attracted me initially at her recent gallery show at Fergus McCaffrey was most reminiscent of AbExer Franz

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