Domenico Mimmo Rotella is an Italian visual artist, born on 7 October 1918 in Catanzaro (Calabria) and died on 8 January 2006 in Milan.
Son of a milliner, Mimmo Rotella leaves for Naples at the end of his years of college and undertakes studies of art. He settled in Rome in 1941, after finding a job at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, but was soon called to the flags and joined the school of Nocera officers and then the school of non-commissioned officers of Caserta. He left in 1944 and obtained his diploma from the art school of Naples. Between 1944 and 1945, he taught drawing at the Institute of Geometers of Catanzaro.
In 1945, he returned to Rome and began a career as a painter. After figurative beginnings, he elaborated a pictorial mode of expression of neo-geometrical origin. He exhibited in 1947 at the Exhibition Syndicale d'Arts Figuratifs and participated in all the annual exhibitions of the Art Club until 1951, both in Rome and Turin. He obtained his first solo exhibition in 1951 at the Chiurazzi Gallery in Rome, where he presented abstract and geometric works, which are little appreciated by critics.
In 1949, in search of an alternative mode of expression, he invented a poetry which he called "epistaltic", a series of words devoid of meaning, whistling, sounds, numbers and onomatopoeias, and published his Compositions in the Manifesto, published by Leonardo Sinisgalli, in his issue "Civiltà delle Macchine" in 1955.
Rotella established a first contact with French artists exhibiting in Paris at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in 1951. In 1951-1952, thanks to a scholarship from the Fullbright Foundation, he traveled to the United States as an artist in residence at the University of Kansas City, where he made a large wall composition and tried to accompany his phonetic poems with percussion. He performs a phonetic poetry performance at Harvard University in Boston and records others for the Washington DC Library of Congress. He also presented his second solo exhibition at the Rockhill Nelson Gallery in Kansas City (1952). During his stay, he met artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Cy Twombly, Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline. Later, he met in Rome in 1960, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko.
Returning to Rome in 1953, he went through a long period of crisis, during which he ceased to paint, convinced that in art everything had already been done. He came out thanks to what he called a "Zen illumination": the discovery of the advertising poster as a means of artistic expression and a message from the city. He began to paste on the canvas pieces of torn posters and exhibited for the first time his posters lacerated in 1955, on the occasion of an "Exposition d'art actuel" in Rome. His work exploits the "double take-off" (poster torn from its support and then torn in workshop) and poster backs. With the series Cinecittà (1958), it works on the posters of cinema of which it isolates faces and silhouettes.
His work is recognized and rewarded in 1956 by the Graziano prize, and in 1957 by the prize Battistoni and Public Instruction. The critic spotted his work as a "poster collector" and saluted him as one of the representatives of the "young Roman painting". Leading a bohemian life, he also made himself known by his extravagances. In 1962 he lectured at the New York School of Visual Arts and in 1964 he was invited to the Venice Biennale.
Rotella moved to Paris, where he developed a series production process by projection of negative images on the emulsified canvas, a work he called Reportage or Mec-art (1965). Using typography products, he produced between 1967 and 1973, art-typo, proofs freely reproduced on canvas. With this process, he enjoys superimposing and entangling advertising images. "I reversed my old way of proceeding: first I sought to disintegrate, now I try to reintegrate this matter, this reality. In the early 1960s, he carried out some interventions on the advertising pages of magazines with solvents, reducing them or in the state of imprint (rubbing) or making disappear (erasure). In 1975, he imagined plastiforms, torn pieces of posters stuck on three-dimensional polyurethane supports. Another experiment, during the same period, consists of crumpling posters and enclosing them in plexiglass cubes.
Rotella re-established himself in Milan in 1980. In the 1980s, he developed blanks or poster covers from advertising posters erased or covered with white sheets. In 1984, he took over his paintbrushes and acrylic colors to carry out a second cycle of works devoted to cinema: Cinecittà 2. In 1986, he exhibited in Cuba at the University of Havana and realized on this occasion a performance of laceration of posters on the square of the city. During the same year, he gave lectures at the Domus Academy in Milan.