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London
6th Feb 2015 - 24th Mar 2015
Mimmo Rotella
Press Release (PDF)
ROBILANT+VOENA are pleased to present an exhibition of Italian artist MIMMO ROTELLA, opening 5 February in their London gallery. This will be the first UK exhibition of the artist’s work on a retrospective scale. Investigating over fifty years of the artist’s long career, the exhibition, curated by Antonella Soldaini, Director of the Mimmo Rotella Institute, will focus on Rotella’s fascination and experimentation with materials and innovative techniques, and bring to light the multiple ways Rotella manipulated material to achieve a radical conceptual framework which for him extended from the studio into society.

Rotella came of age in Rome during the post-war period and established his place within a cultural movement recognised internationally due to the presence in the city of artists such as Alberto Burri, Ettore Colla, Carla Accardi and Cy Twombly. He invented the décollage technique in 1953/4, and remained one of the key artists working within this practice for the rest of his life. He appropriated cinema and advertising posters from city walls and mined them for meaning by tearing, scarring and excavating their layers, initially leaving an abstract patterning before moving to the more figurative use of subject matter. The artist was decisively in line with his time: his revolutionary gesture of tearing carried out a need for a more direct contact with life and the reality by which he was surrounded. Furthermore, his experimentation with material, technique and concept fulfilled an avant-garde and political undertone: ‘Ripping posters off walls is the only revenge, the only protest against a society that has lost its taste for change and astounding transformations. I glue the posters, then tear them: new, unpredictable forms are created. I’ve abandoned the easel to make this process...’ (M. Rotella, catalogue of 1957 exhibition at Galleria d’Arte Selecta.) As well as using the colourful and vibrant surface of posters in the décollage works, Rotella also utilised the reverse in the retro d’affiches, usually leaving them untouched, hence the physical marks of the walls – plaster, dust, glue and the like were left in evidence, creating a crater-like surface eluding easy definition of material. The exhibition will include seminal early works from the mid-50s to the early 1960s, exemplifying this vital period.

In the 1960s Rotella began working with other innovative techniques such as his photographic reportages and artypos. Both begin with photo-mechanical processes: in the reportages the image is projected on a canvas treated with photographic emulsion in order to fix it; while the artypos are superimposed printing proofs. These two techniques are similar in their results to the experiments in merging photography with painting which both Rauschenberg and Warhol were involved with during that period. While the photographic reportages are characterized by mostly black and white pictures and in some cases by political subjects, the artypos are impregnated with vivid colour, with several layers of flat superimposed advertising images producing an effect that is conceptually linked to the décollages yet visually very different.

Rotella’s dynamic experimentation with material and process continued throughout the 1980s and 90s with his blanks series - collages on canvas or zinc with monochrome pieces of paper covering the greater proportion of the surface. With the blanks Rotella seems to have wished to return to the essential starting point of the artistic process: they are characterised by and loaded with an inscrutable emotive intensity. Parallel to the blanks, the artist also developed his sovrapitture, executed variously on canvas or zinc sheets, by applying acrylic paint on to the décollages. In these works the zinc assumes a significant role beyond that of merely a supporting structure, and becomes instead an integral feature of the work itself. Lastly, additional examples of his late décollage works from the early 2000s will reveal Rotella’s consistent adherence to the process which remained his most defining.

A lavishly illustrated catalogue (in English, with Italian translation) of over a hundred pages will be published on the occasion of the exhibition, with text by Antonella Soldaini, and a chronology mapping Rotella’s entire career.

Mimmo Rotella (Catanzaro, 1918 - Milan, 2006)

Over the course of his career Rotella participated in a great many historical exhibitions including: The Art of Assemblage (New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1961), New Realists (New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, 1962), XXXII Biennale di Venezia (1964), The Italian Metamorphosis (New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1995), XLIX Biennale di Venezia (2001), Arti & Architettura 1900/2000 (Genoa, Palazzo Ducale, 2004), Le Nouveau Réalisme (Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, 2007), Europop (Zürich, Kunsthaus Zürich, 2008), Leaps into the Void: Documents of Nouveau Realist Performance (Houston, The Menil Collection, 2010), Poetry of the Metropolis. The Affichistes (Basel, Museum Tinguely, 2014).

Numerous solo exhibitions have been held internationally, including at: Institute of Contemporary Arts (London, 1957), Galerie J (Paris, 1962), Rotonda della Besana (Milan, 1975), Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain (Nice, 1999), Musée Tinguely (Basel, 2005), Palais des Nations (Genève, 2005), Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais (Paris, 2007), Kunsthaus Zürich (Zürich, 2008), Palazzo Grassi (Venice, 2008), Palazzo Reale, (Milan, 2014). His work is held in museums worldwide, including: De Menil Collection, Houston; Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome; Galleria di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin; Musée National d’Art Moderne-Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Wien; National Gallery, Washington; Staatgalerie, Stuttgart; Tate Gallery, London.

Mimmo Rotella Institute

The Institute was set up in 2012 by Inna and Aghnessa Rotella with the aim of promoting understanding of the figure and art of Mimmo Rotella and preserving his work at the national and international level. Directed by Antonella Soldaini, the Mimmo Rotella Institute, in conjunction with the Fondazione Mimmo Rotella, chaired by Dr Rocco Guglielmo, have commissioned Germano Celant, to begin compilation of the Mimmo Rotella Catalogue Raisonné which will consist of several volumes.
St Moritz
22nd Dec 2014 - 15th Jan 2015
Female Beauty Through the Ages
Press Release (PDF)
From Pericles’ ancient Greece, when beauty first began to be synonymous with harmony and mathematical proportion, to the present day when the quest for physical perfection has become almost an obsession, art has never ceased to investigate the aesthetic appeal of Woman. The artist has long been the eye of the beholder, capturing, depicting and enhancing Female Beauty for posterity. This exhibition is a journey through the beauty of Woman, as represented by some of the most famous artists of all time, and shows that Beauty is more universal than we might believe: the beauty from the past could easily be admired today.

The exhibition begins in the Roman era with a Roman statue of Lucilla, reflecting the classical heritage of aesthetics which has pervaded Western perception of Beauty for centuries. It moves through the Middle Ages when a woman was tame and demure, delicate but resplendent, a desired but unattainable lady between the spirit and the Earth; moving through the Renaissance, towards the sacred Seventeenth century of Sassoferrato’s Madonna and the more profane Three Graces of Giovanni Martinelli’s. It reaches the Belle Epoque with Giovanni Boldini, and the more melancholic Secessionist Gustav Klimt, both masters in portraying women who are supple and uninhibited by nature, ladies who show no reluctance for a more flirtatious model of beauty. Directly holding the viewer’s gaze, they affirm their self-determination as mature and emancipated individuals, fully aware of their femininity.

The journey draws closer to the present day with the seminal icon of Hollywood beauty – Marilyn. Portrayed by Andy Warhol, who revolutionized the very concept of beauty by placing all women both famous and unknown on the same level – the Reversal series Marilyn exhibited questions the classical notion of Beauty, digging for a deeper understanding. The contemporary interrogation of the subject is continued by Jeff Koons, who reinterprets feminine vanity, ironically stylizing the figure of another icon – the cartoon star Popeye’s girlfriend Olive Oyl on a mirrored surface, exploring the links between our contemporary fascination with Beauty and consumerist popular culture, banality and childhood. Lastly, the Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli uses yet another American pop icon - Dolly Parton - to give us his concept of beauty after Palma il Vecchio and Ambrosius Bosschaert – fusing the banal with the historical, thus achieving an almost perfect approximation of the state of Female Beauty NOW.

Through its breadth of references the exhibition places the delicacy, candour, vulnerability, but also the power of feminine charm as the focus of a considered reflection on the nature of aesthetics through the ages, giving each of us an opportunity to draw our own conclusions.