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This article explores a selection of paintings made between 1947 and 1949 by Forma, a group of artists working in Rome. Declaring themselves Marxists and Formalists, Forma proposed their version of abstraction as an alternative to the realism increasingly dominant in Italian Marxist circles. Moving beyond prevailing notions of a debate between abstraction and figuration in post-war Italy, I argue that Forma’s return to the theories of Russian Formalism can be understood as an attempt to renegotiate the legacy of Futurism as well as older histories of Italian painting. In conclusion, I switch to a wider lens to suggest that the antithetical movements of rupture and return that Forma’s art presents can be identified as a part of a Gramscian symptom in a struggle for a new culture.