Home Magazine The life and work of Mimmo Rotella

As it can be seen from the name, Pop Art became extremely popular for a vast range of people, but to better understand what really happened we can leap over the Sixties, when in the United States of America artists as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol or Robert Rauschenberg literally changed the way we think about art. Because of its nature, that in a few words is about elaborating and giving a new shape to the popular culture, this genre was soon inherited in different parts of the world.

We already explored the scope of the Italian Pop Art but now we will delve into this topic by discovering the life and work of an undisputed Italian protagonist: Mimmo Rotella. 


Mimmo Rotella in the cover of his phonetic poems 1975. Courtesy Wikipedia


Mimmo Rotella was born in Catanzaro in 1918 (IT). After the artistic development in Naples where he studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti, in 1954 he moved to Rome and worked as a draftsman for the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. These early years are characterized by the experimentation of different artistic styles, passing from expressionist-type influences to a Cubist-style painting.

Indeed, this is the period where Rotella in parallel with more traditional painting, developed his interests in phonetic and epistaltic poetry. In 1954 the artist created a series of works on canvas, on which he applied torn portions of advertising posters from walls (he uses both the recto and the verso, by using the chromatic and material aspects of the opposing surfaces): this technique, defined as taking off, is presented for the first time during the exhibition "The Seven painters on the Tiber at the Zattere of Ciriola in Rome in 1955 and then, later, at the Galleria del Naviglio in Milan. But his first solo show was in 1951 at Galleria Chiurazzi in Rome. In that period he obtains a scholarship from the Fulbright Foundation, which allows him to settle for about a year at the University of Kansas City where in 1952 he creates a wall panel for a hall of the Faculty of Geology. Of course this experience was fundamental for the subsequent works. 


Mimmo Rotella, Viva America, 1963. 


Around 1958 Rotella gradually abandoned purely abstract compositions, integrating increasingly broad and legible portions of torn posters into his work: he placed the images and icons typical of mass communication at the center of his research. In 1960 the French critic Pierre Restany invited him to join the Nouveaux Réalistes group, with whom he shared experiences and exhibition opportunities in the years to come. In 1964 in Paris where he carried out photographic works on emulsified canvas, exhibited for the first time at the Galerie J in the French capital.

In 1975 he created the "Plastiforme" series, while in 1981 he presented "Coperture" at the Marconi Studio in Milan: advertising posters hidden by white sheets of paper. In the mid-eighties he returned to painting, combining painting technique with work on posters, in what he called "overlays". Mimmo Rotella died in Milan in 2006. 

"I'm not afraid of dying. The great artists have had the privilege of speaking with God. My dream is just that: talking to God."  (Mimmo Rotella)

Cover image: Mimmo Rotella. Courtesy Carla Sozzani Gallery 

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