Convinced that everything in art had already been done, Rotella felt in the early 50's a sense of over-all dissatisfaction, confessing 'when I went back to Rome for the second time after the war, I realised several paintings in the figurative, expressionist, surrealist and even cubist styles but I was never satisfied.' (Mimmo Rotella, Autorella. Autobiografia di un Artista, Milan 1972, p. 26). This exasperated research and deep introspection improvised what he defined as the Zen illumination, the discovery of the advertising consumerist poster as the channel for a new artistic mode of expression.
Armed with a penknife, the artist at night wandered the streets of Rome, ripping posters off the walls from which to create his celebrated double –décollages in which the poster was first ripped from the wall, torn up and reworked in the artist's studio, then re-adhered to canvas or masonite – a technique which would become one of the most expressive and violent manifestations of post-war art. By retaining the original character of these arrangements, Rotella re-created, in effect, essential fragments of the urban landscape, successfully adapting the collage traditionally used by the Cubists to the Dadaist venture of unpredictably tearing the objet trouvé, mastering as a result a poetic recycling of urban, industrial and advertising reality.
Executed in 1961, Arruolamento Militare was created in conjunction with the historically acclaimed A 40° au-dessus de Dada Paris exhibition curated by Pierre Restany- the art critic who had defined a year earlier, in the home of Yves Klein with the likes of Arman, Christo, Deschamps, Raysse, St. Phalle and Rotella "Nouveau Realisme" or the "New perspective approaches to Reality." The present work therefore embodies the magical and unexpected significance of the arbitrarily decomposed and recomposed traces left on the city by consumerist posters, giving an account of the reality of their time. Rotella was convinced that art was only capable of fully capturing the essence and moods of reality if it emerged through direct contact with reality or the space for action. The search for Reality was paradoxically achieved within the torn space- a space which was accidentally created through the loss or partial destruction of the object embodying that very mood or reality.
In Arruolamento Militare or Military Enlistment the choice of subject, title as well as technique, beautifully encapsulate Italy's essential need to revive its naval capacity following the Second World War. The tattered yet distinct Italian Navy flag located in the upper right quadrant of the composition acts as a testimony for the changing role and capabilities of the Italian Navy in the 1960's. Having tragically failed to make any significant impact during the Second World War, and as soon as Victor Emmanuel III surrendered in 1943, the country's remaining ships sailed to Malta to be redistributed to the Allies.
Significant not only as one of the artist's early masterpieces, but also as the defining moment in his artistic maturity, the deeply intense décollage in Arruolamento Militare can be seen to establish the principal tenets that would inform Rotella's later work. Its politically charged atmosphere combined with its violent linearity and vivid colours led critic Alberto Fiz to acknowledge the radicalism of an oeuvre that has abolished 'painting's artificial space to get hold of reality through a passage that is first physical and then psychological'.(Alberto Fiz cited in: Mimmo Rotella, Mimmo Rotella- Early Works, Milan 2007, p. 14)
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