Mimmo Rotella was born on 7 October in Catanzaro, Italy.
He went to Rome and worked for the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, but the war prevented him from enrolling at the Caserta Officers' School.
Returning to civilian life after the armistice of 1943, Rotella obtained his Diploma at the Naples Art Academy. From 1944-45 he taught draughtsmanship at the Institute for Surveyors in his home town.
Rotella moved to Rome where he began to paint post-cubist canvases, but he was soon convinced that there was nothing more to discover in the realm of painting.
Because of the quality of his design work, he was invited to decorate the external façade of Post Offices in Cuneo and in Catanzaro.
Rotella invented a new way of expression, phonetic poetry, which he called 'epistaltic' a brilliant mixture of onomatopoeic and urban sounds.
First one-man show at the Chiurazzi gallery in Rome, showing abstract and geometric works, little appreciated by critics.
Received a bursary from the Theresa College, University of Kansas, Kansas City, USA, to become their artist in residence.
Realised his second one-man show at the Rockhill Nelson gallery, but, importantly, this was also an occasion for him to meet new, cutting edge artists like Rauschenberg, Pollock, Kline.
Rotella returned to Rome and allowed what he called his "Mental Radar" to wander through the city, finding in the publicity posters he came across a mode of expression he very much wanted to be part of. It was the birth of the "Décollages" a technique that consisted of gluing to canvas the torn strips of publicity posters found in the streets.
The torn posters were first exhibited on the banks of the Tiber, and caused a quite a controversy: can one consider pieces of torn posters as works of art? While a very conformist Rome condemned the insolence of Rotella, he nevertheless found his first admirers: the poet, Emilio Villa and Sinisgalli, the driving force behind the revue, 'Civiltà della macchine'.
Rotella began to practise the 'Double Décollage' (the torn pieces of posters found in the streets were ripped up again in his studio); he devoted himself to this technique until 1957.
His talent is at last recognised and he is awarded the Graziono Prize (1956), and the Battistoni e della Pubblica Istruzione Award (1957). This is also the beginning of a series of one-man shows throughout the world: Zurich (Galleria Beno); London (Institute of Contemporary Art); Venice, (Galleria del Cavallino); Rome, (Galleria Selecta).
Turcato introduced Rotella to the French critic Pierre Restany. This meeting brought Rotella out of his isolation and allowed him to discover similar works being realised by the poster artists Hains, Villéglé and Dufrêne. From then on, at the initiative of his Parisian colleagues, he composed figurative works of the torn posters that were more attentive to detail.
He took part in a collective exhibition of contemporary Italian painting in Tokyo, Lima and Mexico, then at the International Biennial of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana.
Even if he did not sign the manifesto, Rotella joined, among others, Arman, Hains, Dufrêne, Villéglé, Caésar, Niki de Saint Phalle at the heart of the Nouveau Réalisme movement created by Pierre Restany. In that same year his participation in the second Festival of Avant Garde Art in Paris, along with Villéglé and Dufrêne sealed his adherence to the Nouveau Réalistes.
Participated in several exhibitions: The Art of Assemblage (MOMA, New York); 40° au-dessus de Dada (Galerie J in Paris); Festival of Nouveaux Réalistes (Nice). In the same year he initiated the 'Rotellisation' and the assembly of different objects.
He realised, at the initiative of Pierre Restany, his first one-man show at the 'Galerie J' in Paris ; 'Cinecittà' where he presented the 'Décollage' of cinema posters begun in 1960, among which featured the famous work of 'Marilyn'.
Rotella settled in Paris.
In Paris and in Brussels, he participated at the 'Homage to Nicéphore Niepce'. He is at the centre of what he calls, Mec Art, a process that consists of projecting photo negatives, or news reports onto emulsified canvases.
He also realised his first erotic works.
From this date he explored new modes of expression. Thus Art Typo succeeded Mec Art. From then the artist superimposed and bunched up advertising posters rather than tear them.
He also experimented with rubbing them to the state of imprint (frottage) which consisted in soaking, for a certain time, advertising pages in solvent, or with erasing them, (effaçage).
Participation in the tenth anniversary of Nouveau Réalisme in Milan.
He published his autobiography, 'Autorotella'.
Exhibition 'Erotellique' at the Galerie Marquet (Paris). It was a photo report on the theme of the female nude, over which hung a shadow of sadomasochism.
Birth of 'Plastiformes': posters torn from billboards and glued to polyurethane supports.
In the same year Alfredo Todisco published the first album of phonetic poetry, which opened the doors to Rotella, in the following year, to the International Recital of Sonar Poetry in Paris.
Also in 1976 he crumpled up posters and enclosed them in Plexiglas cubes.
Retrospective of the works of Rotella, for the period 1958-1975, at the Civic Gallery of Modern Art in Portofino.
He left Paris to settle permanently in Milan.
Exhibition at Marconi in Milan, then at Denise René in Paris of the 'Blanks': advertising posters, partially covered in white or blue, in the manner of outdated posters.
Second cycle of works consecrated to the cinema, 'Cinecittà 2'.
He exhibited at the university of Havana, Cuba, and for the occasion he realised a tearing in public, in the town square.
In the same year he spoke of his work at a conference at the Domus Academy in Milan.
Inspired by the arrival of graffiti, Rotella created the 'sovrapitture', (overpaintings) where pictorially speaking, he intervened in the torn posters.
He married the young Russian economist, Inna Agrounova, with whom he had a daughter, Asya.
He participated in the exhibitions: 'Art et Pub' at the George Pompidou Centre in Paris; 'High and Low' at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Jack Lang, the French culture minister, decorated him with the title of 'Officier des Arts et Lettres'.
He participated at the exhibition 'Italian Metamorphosis' at the Guggenheim Museum (New York) and caused a sensation.
Exhibitions: 'Face à l'Histoire' at the George Pompidou Centre (Paris); 'Hall of Mirrors' at the MOCA (Los Angeles), where, during the 'centenary of cinema', he exhibited his 'Marilyn' alongside those of Andy Warhol. This exhibition went on a tour of the world.
The same year he renewed his 'décollages' on the giant advertising panels found alongside highways.
Following the death of the movie director Federico Fellini, Rotella created a series of works based on his cinema posters. This was the series 'Felliniana'.
Sergio Abramo, mayor of Catanzaro, his hometown, issued a municipal decree authorising Rotella to freely tear down posters found in the commune.
Retrospective at the MAMAC in Nice.
Mimmo Rotella lives and works in Milan.
Mimmo Rotella, who has not exhibited in a private gallery in Nice for 30 years, presents " Mimmo Rotella fait son cinéma " at Artsoum art contemporain .
.8 January 2006
Death of Mimo Rotella in Milan at age 87.