Mimmo Rotella

Lo schermo, 1965-66
Photo emulsion on canvas
185 x 145 cm
72 7/8 x 57 1/8 in
Signed on the lower left on recto: “Rotella”
Signed on the upper right on verso: “Rotella”

€ 350,000.00


In 1963, Mimmo Rotella begun developing a new technique – the photo emulsion – in a quest for mechanical painting, which 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.

The world of cinema – and especially the movies directed by Federico Fellini alongside Hollywood classics and their divas – are subject of several of Rotella’s photo emulsions.
For the large canvas Lo Schermo (1965-1966) Mimmo Rotella appropriated an advertisement for the New York Film Festival, published in a Variety issue from April 1964. The full spread page depicted a staged projection of the Italian film Il mare (1963) directed by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi. The black and white movie is concerned with the concept of alienation, tracing the story of three people who for different reasons find themselves spending the winter months on the Italian island of Capri.
Focussing on the visual imagery of the desolate winter scenery, the film relies heavily on the visual language of the landscape, with very little dialogue. The protagonists are never introduced, their sentiments often expressed through silence and mirrored by natural scenery. Their inability to connect traces an underlying tension throughout the film that speaks to a general sense of angst reflected in Italian cinema during this period.

Rotella’s photo emulsion solely utilises the imagery of the advertisement, by omitting the accompanying text. The image seems to display a small projection of the film in the right corner, filled largely by a dark space.
Reflecting the artist’s interest in Italian cinema and advertisement, the photo emulsion furthermore may suggest an autobiographical experience of Rotella’s, namely his months at the Regina Coeli prison, in 1964. An essay by Riccardo Venturi published in the catalogue of the exhibition “Mimmo Rotella Manifesto” (2018) outlines a correlation within the composition of the image and Rotella’s writing about the layout of his dark prison cell.