Eye of Eyes
New York, 909 Madison Avenue
Eye of Eyes – an exhibition that expands and enriches narratives attending the work of this celebrated figure of the Italian avant-garde. Curated by art historian Flavia Frigeri, Eye of Eyes turns to the city of Turin, where Rama was born and lived until her death in 2015. Siting her work in the context of the exhibitions she visited, the artists she was in conversation with, and the formal and conceptual concerns she encountered in the efforts of her contemporaries, the exhibition makes vivid the artistic landscape Rama occupied.
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 male-dominated 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.
Among the works on view will be a selection of Rama’s early figurative watercolors, including Opera n. 18 (1939) and Appassionata (1941). Arriving from a raw, youthful perspective, this series of unabashedly sexual images was censored in the artist’s first solo exhibition, at Turin’s Gaber Gallery in 1945. Also featured is a sequence of the artist’s Bricolage works dating from 1964 to 1968. Rama began this series of assemblages on canvas, titled by her lifelong friend, the poet Edoardo Sanguineti, in the 1960s, following her brief engagement with the Milan and Turin-based Concrete Art Movement (MAC). The densely arranged compositions feature such unusual and specific objects as taxidermy and doll eyes, surgical tools, fur, and rifle cartridges.
Resolutely autonomous for the entirety of her life, Rama never married nor lived with any romantic partners. Likewise, she refused to be relegated to the position of muse or disciple of the established male artists with whom she was often seen and photographed. The artist firmly resisted any alignment with the established and male-dominated art historical canon, using her lack of formal training to remove herself from any patriarchal lineage: “I don’t have any masters,” she stated, “the sense of sin is my master.”