Carlo Ramous, materia e materia
Artists Carlo Ramous
Milano | Officine Saffi/ lab
15 December 2017 – 17 January 2018
Press preview and opening reception: Thursday 14 December 2017, 6-9pm
Carlo Ramous Materia e materia (matter and matter)
From December 15th to January 17th Officine Saffi is pleased to present a small exhibition dedicated to the works of Carlo Ramous. On display some sculptures from the 1950s, between classicism and cube-primitivist experimentations, which interact with some mixed techniques of the 70's, witness to the great spatial sensitivity of the artist. The exhibition is completed by few ceramic brooches made in 1953, an exceptional production of sculptures to wear.
It is impossible to miss the imposing dancing figure that is the focal point of Piazza Conciliazione in Milan since 1981. Entitled “Gesto per la Libertà” (Gesture for freedom), the monumental installation, made of iron by Carlo Ramous in 1973, still emanates the sense of neo-Futurist rebellion that the artist wanted to express when he designed it in the air, with all the gestural power in his arm, placing it into a relation with the urban space. This dialogue between sculpture and architecture, begun in the 1950s, never ended for Ramous, and characterises his plastic works, which are certainly designed for humankind, but often intended for an interaction with squares, churches and buildings. Carlo Ramous, with his reserved, quite sensitive temperament, did not first present himself as a profound innovator of the arts, but as an attentive weaver able to intertwine tradition and future. His early works in the second post-war period remained classically figurative (Marino Marini had been his charismatic teacher at Brera). Within a few years, Ramous strayed into Picassism, an influence sealed in Italy by memorable exhibitions dedicated to the Spanish artist in '53 in Rome, and shortly thereafter in Milan, at Palazzo Reale.
One of his early practices started with the terracotta medium. His vital expressiveness is testified by some sculptures that Ramous, from the late forties and early fifties, modelled as anthropomorphic subject such as “Testa” (head) and “Grande donna seduta” (big woman sitting) in 1955, "Solitudine" (loneliness) in 1956 and, in 1957, "Due figure" (two figures), all of which are made of refractory terracotta, clad in the warm and rough tones that characterise the material. Between figuration and abstraction, these are the works of an artist already probing alternative paths, which could have distracted him from a solid three-dimensionality, in part derived from Mediterranean archaism, and in part from classical antiquity, to which Italian art had remained bound into the 20th century. For instance of Arturo Martini, or the first Manzù. The latter, among others, was also a teacher of the young Milanese sculptor. Ramous' imprint, compact yet delicate in the expressive shades of his faces and bodies, also opened up a multitude of interpretations and reflections. His treatment of the female figure, one of the leitmotifs of his work in those years, testifies to this: the woman-lover-mother icon (the vigorous Pomona, Goddess of Fruit in ancient Rome) becomes both the source of research and an interlocutor with whom to exchange a word and, together, to offer answers through her vibrant representation.
In the early 1950s, specifically in 1953, Ramous produced his first glazed ceramic brooches, which trace a path back to the world of the feminine in their ornamental function, their choice of theme, their subject and their decorative flourishes. These little "jewels", created for his wife Lalli, but also for friends, collectors and admirers of his work, reveal the intimate, delicate and graciously playful coté to the artist’s creative process. Faces, masks, archers, cats and doves follow at a fast pace on these plaques, only a few centimetres in diameter, and characterised by a creativity that radiates life, in the form of small pieces of jewellery. Stylistic comparisons with ornaments by other artists are immediate, and would have been noted in Europe from the end of the 1940s to the 1960s. Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso or George Braque had also dabbled in the bijou, introducing jewellery – gold, embossed and engraved, or enamelled and encrusted with gemstones – masks, from the tribal to the surreal, the female figure as a classical icon, radiant solar amulets, birds, seagulls and doves – the classic sign of freedom. These bear obvious similarities with the compact feminine features in Ramous’ miniatures, whether frontal or lateral. The same is true of the sense of formal synthesis, though with some concessions to Africa and its simulacra. The second post-war period was extraordinary for the jewellery devised by painters and sculptors. It is interesting to note how in tune Ramous was with the times, only a decade after Alexander Calder and Max Ernst, whose ornaments date back to the forties, yet anticipating some of the French "cubists" by a few seasons. Of course, in the case of Ramous, we're not talking about precious metals. He worked instead with humble materials such as ceramics, which, in Italy, had their distinguished precursors in Lucio Fontana or Fausto Melotti, and equally extraordinary interpreters in Roberto Sebastian Matta or Enrico Baj – Ramous’ contemporaries – all of them linked in some way with the kilns of Albisola. In 1961, the International Exhibition of Modern Jewellery opened its doors in London, where the jewellery historian Graham Hughes had called up many goldsmiths to reconnect with the phenomenon of artists' jewellery that was, by then, increasingly catching on. Man Ray, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Arp, Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst and other important artists active in the specific field of the traditional ornament were among the best-known figures to take part.
The lively and ingenious series of little brooches certainly did not distract Ramous from his project, developed along abstract lines (see the vast production of bronzes and aerial iron structures, appropriately highlighted by Fulvio Irace and Luca Pietro Nicoletti at their exhibition in summer 2017 at the Milan Triennale). Rather, the jewellery represented just one divertissement that, like a fil rouge, linked together "private" moments in their existential journey. Already in the late 1950s, and continuing into the sixties and seventies, large, signature commissions had come to fruition. Ramous accomplished these in collaboration with architects such as Mario Tedeschi, Carlo Bassi and Goffredo Boschetti, integrating sculpture (concrete or terracotta) and architecture in harmonious complementarity to cast Ramous’ figurative, abstract-informal or brutalist footprint, for instance the Cino del Duca publishing house in Blois, 1961, designed by engineer Tullio Patscheider. Ramous’ works were not restricted to sculpture in the decades up to the Nineties: his daily output is also on display in Via Ariberto, where he lived and worked for many years. Painting always interested him, especially in his more experimental creations, where he blends materials rarely combined on a two-dimensional surface: canvas, paper, wood, cellophane, mineral pigments, iron and combustible materials. For example, "Sogno" (sogno) from 1971, in which Ramous combusts the graphics onto a jute surface; or the architectonically suggestive "Senza titolo" (1981), in which Indian ink, paper and cellophane translate into a compositional essay in a poetic, structural assemblage: a synthesis that summarises the variety of Ramous’ creative expression, which aspires to break down the boundaries between art and art, matter and matter, language and language, with all the restless questioning that this enterprise involves, and which was inherent to the intimate being of the artist.*
Extract from the curatorial essay by Alessandra Quattordio
CARLO RAMOUSCarlo Ramous was born in Milan on June 2, 1926; he attended the Artistic High School at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, and then continued his studies at the Accademia di Brera with Marino Marini and Giacomo Manzù. Soon he sets himself on the scene of Italian abstract sculpture. Personal exhibitions are organized around the world in major museums and galleries. Among all the places are Milan - Galleria Il Milione (1956), Geneva - Jolas Gallery (1971), Milan - Piazzetta Reale (1974), La Spezia - Anthological Exhibition at the Allende Center (1977), Gubbio - Antologica. Twenty years of sculpture (1987). His works are also exhibited in personal exhibitions and major international exhibitions: Venice Biennale in 1958, 1962, 1972; Biennial of Alexandria of Egypt in 1960 and of Sao Paulo in 1961; Quadriennale of Rome in 1955, 1959, 1965, 1973; Triennale of Milan in 1954, 1960, 1964; Antwerp International Biennial in 1965 and 1973; and other important international reviews from Paris to Tokyo, from Rome to London, from Oslo to Milan, from New York to Antwerp, from Alexandria to Tehran, from Mexico City to Budapest, to Aquila, Zurich , Cologne, Nuremberg, Berlin to Sidney, The Hague, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Dusseldorf, Los Angeles, Lagos.
Among the museums that own his works, it is worth mentioning: Museum of Modern Art Villa Giulia in Rome, Museo Cà Pesaro of Modern Art in Venice: Modern Art Gallery in Milan, Colgate Museum in New York, Middelheim Museum in Antwerp , Forma Forma Viva Museum of Portoroz.
In addition to countless personal and collective exhibitions, he has performed numerous great works for architecture, including: architect Mario Tedeschi, the church of Santa Marcellina and the church of Don Bosco in Milan; with the engineer Tullio Patscheider the façade bas-reliefs of the Rotocalco Ambrosiana plant in Cinisello Balsamo, the impressive facade of over 1000 square meters of the Cino del Duca Impression in Blois (France) and, always with Patscheider, the decorative tile line outdoor “Patram”.
He died in Milan on November 16, 2003.