Carol Rama

Bricolage

1968

Not on display

Artist
Carol Rama 1918–2015
Medium
Paint, plastic doll’s eyes and beads on hardboard
Dimensions
Frame: 805 × 707 × 71 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with funds provided by the European Collection Circle 2020
Reference
T15549

Summary

Bricolage 1968 is a work on Masonite with collaged elements by the Italian artist Carol Rama. It is thickly painted with brown, yellow, red and black paint, with four groupings of dolls’ eyes embedded in the surface. It measures 700 by 600 millimetres, a size which is consistent with that of Rama’s other works of this period. It was made in Turin and is signed and dated in the lower left corner. The title is a French word for something that has been constructed from a diverse range of objects and materials.

After a period in the 1950s where she made watercolour drawings, often featuring explicit imagery, and geometric abstract paintings, in the 1960s Rama created a number of bricolages using a variety of materials, including metal shavings, dolls’ eyes, wire, syringes, fur and animal claws, in combination with paint and ink. In the early 1970s, engaging with the materials of the local industries of her home town of Turin in northern Italy, and particularly its car production, she began to use rubber, car tires, bicycle inner tubes and electric wire in her work.

This particular work is one of a number of bricolages that Rama made using dolls’ eyes; here they are larger than in many other works and some have lashes. The support is also more substantial that a number of her other dolls’ eye bricolages, some of which are on paper (see, for example, Spurting Out [Schizzano via] 1967, Museum of Modern Art, New York). In all these works, Rama usually set the eyes in grounds of loosely brushed or splashed paint or ink. The handling of the painted medium derives from tendencies in post-war abstraction such as art informel and abstract expressionism. Meanwhile, Rama’s treatment of eyes and her dismembering of dolls connects to numerous examples of surrealist literature, film and art as seen in, for example, the French theorist George Bataille’s novella Histoire de l’œil (‘Story of the Eye’, 1928); Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel’s short silent film Un Chien Andalou (1929); Hans Bellmer’s photographs of dolls in his book Die Puppe (1934); or Dora Maar’s photomontage Les Yeux: Element Pour Photomontage 1935, which Maar made by photographing dolls’ eyes set against pools of water.

Curator Flavia Frigeri has written of Rama’s dolls’ eye works:

Certainly one of the most intriguing and puzzling features of Rama’s art is her use of doll eyes. Of different colours and sizes, they become powerful tools in engaging the viewer. Singly or en masse, the eyes represent vision as both a concept and an action. Viewing and being viewed become one as the doll eyes, with their perky gaze, coerce the viewer into looking. Never squinting, they hold the stare, as if the artist herself were looking and beholding through these accoutrements, alternatively borrowed from taxidermy and child’s play.
(Flavia Frigeri, ‘How Much Light in Black’, in Lévy Gorvy 2019, pp.34–5.)

Further reading
Beatriz Preciado and Anne Dressen (eds.), The Passion According to Carol Rama, MACBA, Barcelona 2014.
Helga Christoffersen and Massimiliano Gioni (eds.), Carol Rama: Antibodies, New Museum, New York 2017.
Flavia Frigeri (ed.), Carol Rama: Eye of Eyes, Lévy Gorvy, New York 2019.

Mark Godfrey
June 2019

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