Mimmo Rotella

Un pezzo da film, 1956
Dècollage, torn poster on canvas
46 x 52 cm
18 1/8 x 20 1/2 in
Signed on the lower left on recto: “Rotella/56”

Price on request


Being largely inspired by a number of artists based in the Italian capital in the 1950’s, such as Alberto Burri, Robert Rauschenberg, Salvatore Scarpitta, and Cy Twombly, Rotella’s work started distancing itself from painting and moving towards a combination of collage – prominent in the Cubist movement – and the practice of appropriation present in Dada. He created his works appropriating found materials that would undergo several phases of subtraction and destruction as well as layering. Rotella replaced the need for a subjective and emotive participation with painting for an objective and impersonal process that encompassed the material reality of mass society, thereby forging a link between the artist and his wider social context. Yet, rather than re-presenting his found materials in a passive way, as Duchamp had done before him, Rotella attacked them with a violence that appears to represent a struggle against the urban environment, where nature has been replaced by an extremely artificial culture.

Un pezzo da film, 1956 is a great example of Mimmo Rotella’s décollage works, the technique the artist had invented in 1953 and that he is widely known for. Often dressed rather dashingly, Rotella would head out into the streets of Rome. In a fleeting moment of mischievous vandalism, he would tear down film and advertisement posters that interested him conceptually rather than visually. Back in the studio, Rotella would mount these posters on to canvas or board, ripping and tearing away at each layer. The act of appropriation and reassembly of the city detritus through these ripped, mass-produced posters and adverts, paradoxically resulted in a work of high culture, creating new meaning through unexpected visual juxtapositions that transcended the ephemeral nature of its parts. Playing with the images, Rotella gave life to a series of intertwined icons of the myth of an international, playful and colourful Italy.

The work’s title, Un pezzo da film (A piece out of a movie) points towards Mimmo Rotella’s interest in the world of cinema as a subject matter, which started in the 1950’s and accompanied him until the end of his career, becoming manifested through works created across a variety of media. In his dècollages, according to critic Germano Celant, allowing sourced images to guide the artist’s gesture in creating his work neutralises any pretence of artistic heroism, introducing instead an uninterrupted and virtually inexpressive compositional flow within a stream of images commenting on the value and commercialisation of the industries of fame and film. While the composition of Un pezzo da film is particularly complex and abstract due to the abundance of ripped layers, some of the writing reading “dotto da John Croydon” in the lower right quadrant of the composition confirms that at least one of the posters utilised was originally advertising a film produced by British producer, John Croydon.