Mimmo Rotella, Décollage Innovator, Is Celebrated in His First UK Retrospective
Mimmo Rotella’s work is clearly and deeply linked to all of these movements, which only adds weight to the force of his originality. Rotella began his career as a painter of expressive, geometric abstraction in early 1950s Italy. He then received a Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States, where he traveled around reading his experimental, onomatopoeic, so-called “epistaltic” poetry. (This kind of phonetic verse, sometimes called “words in freedom,” was itself a critical part of avant-garde movements like dada and Italian
Rotella’s oeuvre is so distinct that it requires its own vocabulary. The most important term, which he coined, is décollage: it refers to the collaging process that he developed in which he ripped worn-out posters from outdoor walls of Rome, tore them up further in his studio, and then reassembled them on prepared canvas. His early décollage compositions—like Collage 12 (1954) and Senza titolo (ca. 1960)—resemble cubist or even
Décollage was not Rotella’s only innovation. His other techniques include retro d’affiche, such as Materia 5 (1956), in which he displayed the unmodified but dusty reverse sides of the posters he found; photographic reportage, in which he projected an image onto a canvas treated with emulsion; artypo, like Uno sguardo dal bicchiere (1966), in which he superimposed printing proofs; blanks, such as Blank C blue violet (1980), in which he covered his collages with monochrome sheets of paper; and sovrapitture, like Il bacio al parco (1993), in which he painted over décollages in acrylic.
He may have only been formally a member of two artistic groups (one called “Les Affichistes,” or the poster-ers, and the other, larger one known as the
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