This work is recorded in the archives of the Fondazione Mimmo Rotella.
Perfectly conjuring the texture of the streets of Post-War Europe, the tattered, dechiré remains of the posters that comprise Tragedia speak both of torment and of glamour. The torn posters themselves convey a sense of anxiety, as does their accretion. These are the witnesses of the passing of time, the changing of tastes and, as is made expressly obvious by the incorporation of an iconic Holocaust image, of death. Yet at the same time the nature of posters themselves lends a hint of the wonders of the big screen, of advertising, of evenings on the town and entertainment. Yet these hints, in Tragedia, are the merest flash in the pan; the dominant mood is that of oppression, of politics, of the lurking past.
Executed in 1961, Tragedia shows Rotella's increasing interest in the contents and composition of his décollages. Initially, these had been the product of chance, finds that themselves bore witness to the changes that had been rent on the streets of his native Italy. But increasingly from the early 1960s, content and form became central to his work. In Tragedia, the content is unambiguous: peering hauntingly from its torn surface is the face of a boy, his hands in the air, in an infamous photograph (here used as the basis of a poster) of Jews being rounded up by the Nazis. The state of the paper adds to the sense of a world torn apart, of tragedy and strife and conflict. This work points a finger at history, and likewise at the everyday people who make history a reality. It is a political warning as well as an emotive depiction of the horrors of the recent past. In the most formal terms, Rotella can be seen to have explored the properties of the various layers of paper, to have ensured that they combine to lend a sense of shivering colour to this dream-like vision of a nightmarish reality that had occurred only two decades earlier. With its torn texture, Tragedia appears to be a readymade relic; it has a hint of the ancient about it, or rather a hint of the timeless, as is only apt for the perennial theme of persecution, of man's inhumanity to man.