MIMMO ROTELLA. SOVRAPITTURE
Luna Park, Miami
12 December 2019 – 30 May 2020
Luna Park is pleased to present an exhibition dedicated to Mimmo Rotella, one of the most acclaimed contemporary Italian artists of the 20th century, opening the 12th of December in the Luna Park’s space in Miami.
The show aims to highlight a specific part of Rotella’s artistic production, generally less known and initiated in the 80s. The focus will be on the sovrapittura, one of the many techniques used by the artist during the course of his artistic career, started in the early 50s and ended in the early 2000s.
The show comprises four examples of this technique, made between the 80s and the 90s: Noi amiamo Europa, (1987), Formula 1, (1988), 24 ore, (1990) La vache qui rit, (1990). All these works are distinguishable by the use of posters and décollages laying on canvas or metal sheets, on which Rotella adds acrylic paint generating a powerful pictorial sign.
His décollages are his most famous works; Rotella is also well known for his experimenting nature. Throughout his life he has been interested in the multiple possibilities for the artistic expression and has always been looking at the use of different techniques. This attitude stems from a lifelong need to overcome the limitations imposed by the rigid and already defined traditional languages. Following the success achieved with his techniques of décollage and retro d’affiche, developed during the 50s and 60s, the artist began exploring a wide range of new artistic methods.
Born in 1918 in the Calabrian city of Catanzaro, Rotella moved to Rome after the Second World War; here he established himself within the international contemporary artistic environment of the capital. Many iconic artists of the day were based in Rome during those years; Alberto Burri, Ettore Colla, Carla Accardi, Cy Twombly, to name a few. He invented the décollage technique between 1953 and 1954, becoming one of the key artists of Nouveau Réalisme, the artistic movement conceived in the 60s by the French art critic Pierre Restany. The décollage consists in the assemblage of various layers of advertising posters ripped off from the walls of the streets of Rome, then reworked in the studio to create new formal compositions through the gesture of tearing and lacerating their layers, with the use of a pointed tool.
Rotella’s dynamic experimentation of materials and techniques can be particularly evident with the conception of the sovrapitture, namely décollages made on canvas or metal sheets and characterized by the addition of acrylic paint elements. In these artworks the metal sheet does not represent a mere support structure, but it takes on a significant role, becoming an integral part of the work. The sovrapitture were defined for the first time during the exhibition at Galleria Niccoli in Parma in 1986. They represented a new, energetic explosion of shapes and colours, albeit connected to the world of décollage. A salient feature of this new cycle was the presence of paint on the posters, which were glued to the canvas, or to the metal sheet. This body of work could also be connected to his early geometric abstract painting. The sovrapitture are ‘a logical continuation of the first mass-media images executed at the beginning of my career using the ‘tearing’ technique” (Rotella. M. Rotella, Diari 1970-2002).
The 80s were marked by the establishment of the postmodernist thought. This implied a tendency to eclecticism, a return to primitive painting and writing, an opposition to the positivist and diachronic view typical of the historical avant-gardes. The resulting pictorial sign was deliberately coarse and rough, the subjects of the paintings were explicitly self-referential. Rotella took on this movement with great skill, making it his own, sharing and referring again to his most beloved subject: the advertising posters.
Through the sovrapitture, Rotella finds a very close correspondence to the neo-figurative expressionism lead in Italy by the Transavant-garde artists like Sandro Chia, Nicola De Maria, Mimmo Paladino, Francesco Clemente and Enzo Cucchi.
Similarly, in the United States, artists such as David Salle, Erich Fischl, Julian Schnabel and graffiti artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. It is particularly in Basquiat’s paintings that interesting points of contact can be found, considering Rotella’s production at that time. They both had a heightened interest in the graphic part of the artistic composition, drawing their inspiration from the street. ‘In 1987, I began to recover old metal panels on which I pasted torn posters: over them I painted figures, symbols, graffiti that I saw not only on the walls of the city, but also in the subways and in some of the advertising in magazines’ (Rotella. M. Rotella, L’ora della lucertola, p. 254).
Years later, recalling the period of the sovrapitture, the artist said: “…I realized that painting changes. I was tired of the insignificant and retrograde painting I was seeing around. I decided to return to the brush and colour. In short, I want to show both the new sensitivity and the technique for the new way of expression, adapting to our times. By now, I think aesthetics in art is finished. We have to return to a barbaric type of semi-expressionist painting with rather ugly colours. In short, an anti-painting, a bad painting that becomes beautiful painting, good painting, strong, brilliant and almost magical’ (Rotella. M. Rotella, L’ora della lucertola, p. 230).
This statement reveals the pride and determination of his actions. Rotella’s belief in a stylistic nomadism allowed him freedom not to be trapped in a single and repetitive expressive method but to rather pave the way for a constant innovative practice of his art, which he carried forward, tenaciously and radically, throughout the entire course of his long career.
Mimmo Rotella (Catanzaro, 1918 – Milano, 2006)
During his career, Rotella participated to some relevant historical exhibitions such as: The Art of Assemblage (New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1961), New Realists (New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, 1962), XXXII Biennale di Venezia (1964), The Italian Metamorphosis (New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1995), XLIX Biennale di Venezia (2001), Arti & Architettura 1900/2000 (Genoa, Palazzo Ducale, 2004), Le Nouveau Réalisme (Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, 2007), Europop (Zürich, Kunsthaus Zürich, 2008), Jump in the Void: Documents of Nouveau Realist Performance (Houston, The Menil Collection, 2010), Poetry of the Metropolis. The Affichistes (Basel, Museum Tinguely, 2014).
His work has been the subject of major solo exhibitions at: Institute of Contemporary Arts (London, 1957), Galerie J (Paris, 1962), Rotonda della Besana (Milan, 1975), Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain (Nice, 1999) , Musée Tinguely (Basel, 2005), Palais des Nations (Genève, 2005), Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais (Paris, 2007), Kunsthaus Zürich (Zürich, 2008), Palazzo Grassi (Venice, 2008), Palazzo Reale, (Milan, 2014), Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (Rome, 2018).
His work is collected worldwide in major art museums such as: The Menil Collection, Houston; Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome; Galleria di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Wien; National Gallery, Washington; Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart; Tate Gallery, London.