Mimmo Rotella

L’amplesso, 1975
Photo emulsion on canvas
92.2 x 65.2 cm
36 1/4 x 25 5/8 in
Signed on the lower right on recto: “Rotella”       

€ 55,000.00


L’amplesso, 1975 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, alongside magazine and newspaper cuttings as well as photographs, reaching a high degree of objectivity 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.

The photo emulsion L’amplesso, 1975 is based on an erotic image, attesting to the strong interest and fascination of Rotella towards erotic imagery, which he had been incorporating into his vocabulary since his stay in New York in 1968. That year, the artist had affirmed: “It is interesting to note that these stimuli – these are the new things that America inspired in me… I saw America as the most suitable terrain for making these new works of mine”. “Eroticism is very important in the life of a painter, partly as experience, partly as something, let’s say, progressive, like a lifeblood with which a painter nourishes himself to continue to create erotic or non-erotic works… I think I should express my ideas on this… My life pivots on it, on these sexual, erotic adventures, which, at a certain point, become the basis for our present and future work.”

Here, the image portrays a naked couple kissing, the faces and therefore, the identities of both sitters almost entirely blurred. The focus is instead on the bodies: the presentation of their muscles as they are sculpted by light and shadow, the twisting of their bodies and the male’s hand on the woman’s hip are suggestive of a modern reiteration of The Kiss (1901-1904) by Auguste Rodin. The sculptural element of the composition is also highlighted by the staging of the models, as their lovemaking takes place on two plinths. The photograph used as source material to create this photo emulsion may have been taken as documentation of the often sexually charged performative gatherings he regularly hosted in his studio and at home. “I use a female model and one or several male models to stage these “Spettacoli-Verità”, in the sense that they’re not prepared like the Happenings born in America but are improvised. One of these performances was called From the Chelsea Hotel with Love… At a certain point, I was dressed guru fashion, in the guru style, with a half-naked female model at my feet.” This is how Rotella described the Spettacoli-Verità in his autobiography.