Citation by Mimmo Rotella in 1957: “Tearing off the posters from the walls is the only recourse, the only protest against society that has lost the taste of the amazing transformations of the changes”.
It was the same year in which Yves Klein held his first solo exhibition at the Gallery Apollinaire in Milan, three years before the official birth of New Realism. The climate of cultural ferment of those years, the need for a new approach to the real, has involved the cities of Paris and Milan in a lively dialectic, so much so that Pierre Restany chose the Italian city in 1970 in order to celebrate the farewell of the artistic movement, ideally concluded with the funeral feast prepared by Daniel Spoerri.
Palazzo Reale in Milan dedicates an exhibition to the only Italian artist of the movement, Mimmo Rotella, on display until the 31st August 2014, in the spaces set up previously for the exhibition of another undisputed protagonist of Italian Art of the ’60s, Piero Manzoni.
The exhibition offers a journey à rebours in the artistic path of Rotella, from the mid ’60s back to the early ’50s, reserving more than a surprise.
Above all, the rediscovery of two years of intense production of Mimmo Rotella: 1953 and 1954. During these years, Rotella, who had just returned to Rome after the experience of an American scholarship in 1952, finds the artistic climate of Italian art and the city of Rome totally intent on an international vision and oriented towards the new languages of the American and European Informal Art. Alberto Burri, consecrated in 1953 to international success with exhibitions in Chicago and New York, is a point of reference in the artistic context of Rome. The works of Rotella realized during these years (Prearcaico, 1953-1954, retro d’affiche on canvas) interact with those of Burri (White, 1954, pumice stone, acrylic, wood) revealing formal analogies and conceptual differences.
If the artistic research of Burri takes place in the name of a direct and experimental relationship with the materials in all its possibilities, instead the operation of Rotella is the appropriation of the message of urban communication: in a city like Rome, dominated by the bright colors of the posters of Cinecittà films, the act to tear away posters reveals the particular sensitivity of the artist, oriented towards social criticism. It is in these years the idea in Rotella to realize the first décollage and retro d’affiche, with the last experimental solution particularly interesting. If the verso of the tear declares itself, through the breakup of the image, the crisis of mass media society, the recto of the poster, including its fragments of plaster, glue stains, rips, tells the history of the city walls. The practice of taking the material “on the margins of society” already found and used, and re-entered it into “the art circuit,” will remain a constant in Rotella’s work as affirmed by the curator of the exhibition Germano Celant.
From 1963 Rotella, replaces the technique of the tear, with the photographic print on primed canvas with the image of the same posters torn from the walls of the city; this phase marks the adherence to a less “vandalistic” behavior and an interest in the serial concept; if the immersion in pop culture approached Rotella to Andy Warhol (Flowers, 1964), the constant attention to reality shows significant affinities between Rotella and the Art poor’s artist Michelangelo Pistoletto (Portrait of Clino, 1963).
The exhibition concludes with the year 1964,when Rotella participated at the Venice Biennale and had his consecration in the international scene. That same year, Jasper Johns, during a lecture at Whitechapel Gallery in London, leaves a spiritual legacy in tune with the sensibilities of Rotella: “I am interested in things which suggest the world, rather than suggesting personality”.
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