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Mimmo Rotella was born on October 7, 1918, in Catanzaro, Italy. He studied art at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Naples and moved to Rome in 1945. Initially painting in a figurative idiom, he later developed an abstract and geometrical style. As an alternative form of expression, he invented “epistaltic” poetry in 1949, a combination of words (sometimes invented), sounds, and onomatopoeic reiteration. In 1951 he held his first solo exhibition at the Galleria Chiurazzi in Rome. In the same year he won a Fulbright Foundation scholarship which allowed him to travel to the United States, where he studied at Kansas City University. During his time there he created a mural composition, showed at the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City, and held a performance of phonetic poetry at Harvard University in Boston.
Rotella moved back to Rome in 1953 and, after overcoming a creative block, he produced his first décollage. In these works, he pieces from advertisements posters that he had ripped off city walls onto his canvasses. Through these initial works he pursued his investigation into abstract art. After 1958, however, he devoted himself to figurative décollage and created the Cinecittà series, using figures and faces from film posters. Marilyn Monroe became one of the icons of his work. In 1961 he accepted the art critic Pierre Restany’s invitation to become part of the Noveau Réalisme movement, and three years later he moved to Paris. There he developed a process called “Mec-Art” in which he projected negative images on an emulsion covered canvas. These works were shown for the first time in Restany's Galerie J., in 1965. He then made the Artypo series, created by randomly gluing typographic proofs onto canvas, and in 1975 his first Plastiforme, where ripped posters were placed on a polyurethane support.
Rotella moved to Milan and, in the 1980s, created his Blanks, in which he covered ripped posters with monochrome sheets of paper. In 1984 he began painting and produced the Cinecittà 2 series, followed by the Sovrapitture series, where he painted directly onto advertisement clippings. He exhibited at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1990, and at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1994. In 2000 the Foundazione Mimmo Rotella opened; its aim is to promote contemporary art and to preserve the artist’s work. Mimmo Rotella died in Milan on January 8, 2006.