Catanzaro, 1918 – Milan, 2006
Domenico “Mimmo” Rotella studied art at the Academy of fine arts in Naples. In 1945 he started working in Rome as a draughtsman and realising figurative and geometrical-abstract paintings. In 1949 he began formulating “Epistaltic” (phonetic) Poems, which combine invented words, sounds and onomatopoeias.
A scholarship from the Fulbright Foundation allowed him to visit the University of Kansas City in 1951. Back to Rome in 1953, he introduced décollage, a technique consisting in applying fragments of paper he tears from posters on the street to the canvas. After 1958, he developed Cinecittà, a series of works created with movie posters, featuring famous actors such as Marylin Monroe.
In 1961 Rotella joins the Nouveau Réalisme, a group founded by Pierre Restany in 1960 that included, among others, Yves Klein, Pierre Arman and César. Three years later he moved to Paris, where he developed an interest for the use of mechanical processes in the making of images (Mec-Art). Beginning to project pictures onto an emulsified canvas, he thus inverted his previous way of working. He subsequently used typography and tangled images to conceive the Art-typo, a superposition of advertising images that reintegrated what he previously dismembered. In 1967 Rotella and César shot some erotic videos, focusing on the myth of Leda and the Swan. The same year, Rotella moved to New York.
In the early 1970s, Rotella started travelling around the world and settled again in Paris. In 1973 he developed new techniques: frottage (taking a rubbing from an uneven surface to reproduce the shape of an object) and effaçage (deleting a topographical image with a solvent).
In 1980 he moved to Milan, where he elaborated the blank, advertising posters torn and covered with monochrome stripes. From 1986 on he created the Sovrapittura: the overlaying of acrylic paints on an intact or previously torn poster. In 1987 he started applying this technique to zinc.
According to his wishes, the Mimmo Rotella Foundation was created in 2000, and aims to collect, catalogue and preserve all the documents related to his prolific artistic career. In 2005 he was awarded a gold medal for his career at the XIV Rome Quadriennale. The same year, in Catanzaro, the “House of Memory” was inaugurated, a museum hosting a selection of Rotella’s works and a library devoted to both his production and to contemporary visual arts. Rotella died in 2006.
Since the 1950s Rotella’s works have been exhibited in solo and collective shows, in prestigious museums and galleries worldwide. These include the MoMA (1961 and 1991), the Guggenheim (1994) in New York, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris (1991).
© ROTELLA MIMMO, by SIAE 2023
exhibition catalogue edited by Tornabuoni Art London and Flavia Frigeri. Texts by Flavia Frigeri and Ursula Casamonti. B/w and colored illustrations, 92 pages, 11×8,2 in, English, 2018.
exhibition catalogue edited by Tornabuoni Art Paris and Bruno Corà. B/w and colored illustrations, 184 pages, 9,4×11,8 in, French/English/Italian, 2012.