Mimmo Rotella

Italy’s Trial, 1979
Photo emulsion on canvas
104.6 x 80 cm
41 1/8 x 31 1/2 in

€ 70,000.00


Between 1979 and 1980, Mimmo Rotella created a series of photo emulsions dedicated to the political turmoil in Italy during the Anni Di Piombo (years of lead, 1969 – 1982) and other terrorist activities affecting the rest of Europe.
Rotella had created the photo emulsion technique in 1963 and adopted it to record contemporary events and their media dissemination, at once communicating and commemorating the images these works captured, aiming to be objective in conveying current affairs and forming an iconography of the present. The process, which he called reportage, involved choosing images from newspapers and magazines, photographing them, projecting the blown-up negatives onto a canvas chemically treated with photographic emulsion to fix the image. Reportage wouldn’t just refer to the technique – namely, the multi-stage transferral of images from one medium to another – it commented on the content of the works, bringing to the fore the artist’s interest in exploring communication and media.

Preserving the visual impact of the newspaper, characterised by their absence of colour and focus on a single image, this series of photo emulsions is in all effects socio-political reportages reflecting the immediate trauma caused by years of unrest and political turmoil through visuals of terrorism, most often connected to the activities of the Red Brigade. The constant circulation of violent imagery and the power exercised by biased newspaper editors pointed towards the role of the news outlets in constructing the public perception of current events. As Rotella refrained from exhibiting the photo emulsions at the time, it may be noted that he didn’t exploit their sensationalism, rather prioritising the preservation of history, commenting on the reality of a document appropriated by the artist and through whose gesture it is already blurring into memory.

For the photo emulsion Italy’s Trial, 1979 Rotella appropriated the full-size cover of the American newspaper Newsweek, published in April 1978. The paper published this photo in response to the attack and abduction of Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades, an event which prompted international outrage. Pictured here is one of the police officers that were escorting Moro. He was killed during the attack and abduction of the politician. The headline “Italy’s Trial by Terror” is placed above the victim, suggesting a damning conviction by the American paper. While this picture became one of the symbols of Italy’s predicament during the Lead Years, Rotella’s appropriation of this image further questioned the role and involvement of international mass media in shaping national events and their public perception at home.