Mimmo Rotella: Stripped Down

Selected Early Works at Gladstone 64

BY: Liz MacDonald

Italian artist Mimmo Rotella experienced an artistic crisis in 1953. Unsatisfied with his work as an abstract painter, he completely stopped making art, convinced that the medium had nothing left to say. But out of this crisis, Rotella hit upon what he calls his “Zen illumination,” and subsequently pioneered a completely new form of artistic expression, using the ultimate mass media tool, the poster, to create completely original works of art. Gladstone 64 has collected some of Rotella’s earliest poster assemblages, produced by him during the years 1953 to 1962, a rare opportunity to see some of this influential artist’s most formative work.

We’ve come to know Rotella’s innovative techniques as décollage and retro d’affiche—these two methods form the foundation of his artistic production. Rotella saw décollage as the antithesis of collage: rather than adding elements, Rotella layered and glued advertisements face-up on canvas before tearing away and distressing individual layers, creating intentional and accidental expressionist juxtapositions. With his retro d’affiche technique, Rotella used only the often untouched verso of the poster, leaving in place any glue, dirt, and traces of lime and plaster to retain what he called the “urban relic.”

Through décollage and retro d’affiche, Rotella elevates the common object and gives it new meaning and beauty. His work has hints of Pop Art, Expressionist, Cubist, Abstract, and of course Dadist, with its use of found objects and the ready-made, but it is something altogether unique. In deconstructing these posters, he innovated an entirely new form of artistic expression. Mimmo Rotella: Selected Early Works will be on view at Gladstone 64 through June 17. We’ve collected our favorites from the show here, above and below, including details for each work that highlight the layers and textures of each individual piece.

 

Ria (1958) by Mimmo Rotella. Décollage on canvas,
13 1/4 x 16 x 1 inches. Courtesy of Gladstone 64.
Ria (1958) by Mimmo Rotella. Décollage on canvas,
13 1/4 x 16 x 1 inches. Courtesy of Gladstone 64.

 

Detail: Ria (1958) by Mimmo Rotella. Décollage on canvas,
13 1/4 x 16 x 1 inches. Courtesy of Gladstone 64.
Detail: Ria (1958) by Mimmo Rotella. Décollage on canvas,
13 1/4 x 16 x 1 inches. Courtesy of Gladstone 64.

 

TAL (1957) by Mimmo Rotella. Décollage on canvas,12 7/8 x 14 1/4 inches. Courtesy of Gladstone 64.
TAL (1957) by Mimmo Rotella. Décollage on canvas,12 7/8 x 14 1/4 inches. Courtesy of Gladstone 64.

 

Detail: TAL (1957) by Mimmo Rotella. Décollage on canvas,12 7/8 x 14 1/4 inches. Courtesy of Gladstone 64.
Detail: TAL (1957) by Mimmo Rotella. Décollage on canvas,12 7/8 x 14 1/4 inches. Courtesy of Gladstone 64.

 

Scotch Brand (1958-1959) by Mimmo Rotella. Décollage on canvas,
51 1/4 x 39 1/4 x 1 inches. Courtesy of Gladstone 64.
Scotch Brand (1958-1959) by Mimmo Rotella. Décollage on canvas,
51 1/4 x 39 1/4 x 1 inches. Courtesy of Gladstone 64.

 

Detail: Scotch Brand (1958-1959) by Mimmo Rotella. Décollage on canvas,
51 1/4 x 39 1/4 x 1 inches. Courtesy of Gladstone 64.
Detail: Scotch Brand (1958-1959) by Mimmo Rotella. Décollage on canvas,
51 1/4 x 39 1/4 x 1 inches. Courtesy of Gladstone 64.

 

Al Reverso 3 (1960)
by Mimmo Rotella. Retro d'affiche on canvas,
68 5/8 x 41 x 1 inches. Courtesy of Gladstone 64.
Al Reverso 3 (1960) 
by Mimmo Rotella. Retro d’affiche on canvas,
68 5/8 x 41 x 1 inches. Courtesy of Gladstone 64.