Critics’ Picks

View of “Mimmo Rotella Manifesto,” 2018.


Mimmo Rotella

Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea
Viale delle Belle Arti 131
October 30–February 10

In the early 1950s, to escape the trap of geometric abstraction and art informel, which were then dominant modes, Mimmo Rotella invented his own personal language, one inspired by his contemporaries’ experimentations—from Lucio Fontana’s trademark slashes to the use of “improper” art materials, as in Alberto Burri’s sacchi (burlap sack pieces). As apparent from the garish advertising plastered across city walls, postwar Italy had become driven by consumerism. Fascinated by these posters, Rotella appropriated them, scraping them from the walls of Rome at night and then, in his studio, assembling recto and verso portions on canvas to create his décollages. His mapping of the urban visual landscape conveys—through fragments inspired by cinema, television, and commercial photography—the social and cultural context of the time. For approximately fifty years, the artist remained absorbed by street posters, which offered him a steady supply of materials and imagery that he inflected across different stylistic phases. Maintaining a chromatic intensity, a propensity for experimentation, and an attention to the strategies of visual communication, Rotella continued to reflect on themes as diverse as food, fashion, sex, entertainment, and politics in an explosive short circuit between the territories of art and advertising.

This retrospective, titled “Mimmo Rotella Manifesto,” hews closely to the artist’s creative chronology thanks to a spectacular installation conceived by curators Germano Celant and Antonella Soldaini, who present more than one hundred and sixty works hung salon-style. Six gigantic billboards make it possible to retrace at a glance all phases of Rotella’s vast production, and exude the grimy glamour of the streets Rotella so loved to scavenge.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.