Mimmo Rotella

Homage à Velazquez, 1966
Photo emulsion on canvas
81 x 62 cm
31 7/8 x 24 3/8 in
Signed on the lower right on recto: “Rotella/66”

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Description

Homage à Velazquez, 1966 is an example of the use of photographic reproduction on canvas within Mimmo Rotella’s practice, a technique which he begun working with in 1963 in a quest for mechanical painting and that can be considered a natural progression – or rather, reversal, of his creative, layering processes of décollage. He still uses posters and proofs in these works, which become even more objective in forming the artist’s iconography of the present. The procedure, which he calls reportage, involves choosing images, photographing them, projecting the blown-up negatives onto a canvas chemically treated with photographic emulsion to fix the image and when required, colouring. Reportage doesn’t just refer to the technique – namely, the multi-stage transferral of images from one medium to another – it comments on the content of the works, bringing to the fore the artist’s interest in exploring communication and media. The deriving photo emulsions are indeed recordings of contemporary events and their media dissemination, at once communicating and commemorating the images they capture. They play between temporal dimensions; speaking of something contemporary to the making of the work, of the reality of a document appropriated by the artist and through whose gesture is already blurring into memory.

Art history and contemporary art, iconic artworks and artists, are often subject of Rotella’s works across a variety of media throughout his career. Homage à Velazquez, 1966 combines two of the most famous masterpieces painted by the Spanish artist Diego Velazquez in the 1600s, namely Las Meninas (1656) and La rendición de Breda (1634-1635). The composition of the photo emulsion presents a slightly cropped reproduction of Las Meninas. The right-hand side of the masterpiece has also been modified; the paintings hung between the windows in the original are here partly covered by a large canvas hanging at a different perspectival angle. The painting thus inserted depicts a closeup detail of La rendición de Breda, specifically what it is thought to be the self-portrait of a young Velazquez, whose older self is portrayed in Las Meninas in the act of painting the King and Queen of Spain. It is unknown whether Rotella created this composition for the photo emulsion, or if he utilised a readymade image, perhaps an illustration sourced from a magazine.

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