Mimmo Rotella


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Italian painter, born at Catanzaro, Calabria. He studied at the Academy in Naples, then in 1951–2 at the University of Kansas on a Fulbright Scholarship. After his return to Europe he lived and worked firstly in Rome, then moved to Paris in 1964, and to Milan in 1980. In 1954 he began exhibiting collages made up of fragments of posters torn from walls, calling them Manifesti lacerati, and he wrote: ‘Tearing posters down from the walls is the only recourse, the only protest against a society that has lost its taste for change and shocking transformations.’ The French affichistes, through whom he became associated with Nouveau Réalisme, worked in a similar manner, but Rotella seems to have arrived at the technique independently. His posters tend to concentrate more on popular commercial imagery taken from film posters, while the French preferred more political images. James Kirkup recounts that ‘he became like some obsessed creature in an early silent movie—roaming the streets of Rome and tearing at the walls’. (In 1999 the mayor of his native city, Cantanzaro, signed an order allowing Rotella to tear down any posters he chose.) He also used a technique for blowing up photographs on to sensitized canvas (see Mec art). These usually reflect contemporary political events such as the assassination of J. F. Kennedy but also include erotic subjects, as in Operation Sade (1966). The journal Art and Artists printed only the top half in their special issue on erotic art (November 1966) but doubtless many readers could imagine the rest. In his autobiography Autorotella (1972), Rotella conceded that ‘many thought I was sick and that my tastes were strange’.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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