The exhibition, curated by Raffaella Perna and Monica Poggi, and made possible thanks to the collaboration with the Ketty La Rocca Archive, and with the contribution of the Galleria Frittelli in Florence, explores for the first time the relationship between Ketty La Rocca (La Spezia 1938 – Florence 1976) and photography, in order to highlight the crucial role that this medium played in her way of representing the body and gesturality, as well as documenting her performative activity. Indeed, right from her earliest works, the artist used photography in the form of verbal-visual collages, composing images and writings taken from the magazines and journals of the day, but it was the publication of the photo book In principio erat in 1971 that marked an important turning point in the artist’s career, as she began to have herself portrayed while making hand gestures, thus focusing on the relationship between photography, the body and verbal language. From that moment on, her research and her horizon of cultural references broadened, and the focus on mass media that had marked the first phase of her work – linked to her activity with Gruppo 70 – then shifted towards primordial forms of expression based on the body, with a significant opening towards anthropological studies, the history of prehistoric cultures and non-European rituals.
Among the themes she addressed, the role of women within the mass media and an explicit critique of capitalism and the influence of the Church within modern society emerge forcefully. In addition to the stereotyped imagery of women’s publishing that characterised her early research, La Rocca also added historical imagery to her repertoire, such as those taken from the Alinari archives, or scientific ones, as in the case of Craniologie, where she uses X-rays of the skull, superimposed onto photographs of hands or handwritten phrases. In this phase, photography took on a central role for her, which the exhibition documents through a selection of more than fifty works, dated from between 1967 and 1975, including images of her performances, works with hand gestures and facial expressions linked to studies on physiognomy, works produced using a Xerox copier, up to the series of the previously mentioned Craniologie and Riduzioni, in which La Rocca brings photography back under the domain of subjectivity through the use of handwriting.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue published by Silvana Editoriale.
The exhibition is held in collaboration with the Archivio Ketty La Rocca | Michelangelo Vasta and with the contribution of Frittelli Arte Contemporanea.
Ketty La Rocca – Biography
At the end of the 1950s, Gaetana La Rocca, a.k.a. Ketty La Rocca (La Spezia, 1938 – Florence 1976) settled in Florence, where she approached visual poetry, starting to collaborate in the activities of Gruppo 70 in 1966. In this phase, the artist produced collages and works based on the montage of images and words taken from mass media, in which her dialogue with the early avant-garde tradition went hand in hand with a critique of mass culture and the role of women in the society and visual culture of the 1960s. Having completed her verbal-visual experience, in the early 1970s La Rocca focused on the language of body gestures, adopting a range of expressive strategies and various media: photography, video, performance and the artist’s book. After participating in several group exhibitions in the 1960s and holding her first solo show at the Palazzo dei Musei in Modena in 1971, La Rocca was invited to the 35th Venice Biennale in 1972: from this moment on, her work gained visibility, thanks to exhibitions such as Combattimento per un’immagine. Fotografi e pittori (Turin, 1973), Italy Two. Art around ’70 (Philadelphia, 1973) and Fotomedia (Dortmund, Milan and Helsinki, 1974–1976). Two years after her death, in 1978, a retrospective exhibition was dedicated to her as part of the 38th Venice Biennale. Her works are now to be found in numerous museum and foundation collections, including that of the Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto (MART), the National Museum of 21st-Century Art (MAXXI), the Novecento Museum in Florence, Gallerie d’Italia in Milan, the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome, the Uffizi in Florence, MoMA in New York and the Centre George Pompidou in Paris. In recent years, her works have been included in various major international group exhibitions dedicated to women’s art and the relationship between art and feminism, in particular Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution at MOCA in Los Angeles (2007), Donna: avanguardia femminista negli anni ‘70 at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome (2010), and She-Bam Pow POP Wizz! Les Amazones du POP, MAMAC in Nice (2020).