Mimmo Rotella was born in Catanzaro on the 7th of October 1918, the son of a milliner. Following high school he moved to Naples where he began art studies (in 1941 he went to Rome after having obtained a post at the Ministry of Postal and Telecommunication Services. From here he was sent to the School for Non-commissioned Officers in Caserta (Campania). In 1944 he left the armed forces and then obtained his diploma at the Naples Art Academy. From 1944 until 1945 he taught draftsmanship at his city's Institute for Surveyors.

In 1945 he moved to Rome: following his figurative beginnings and first experimentations he elaborated a manner of pictorial expression of neo-geometrical matrix. His participation in exhibitions began in 1947 at the Mostra Sindacale di Arti Figurative. He also took part in all the annual exhibitions of the Art Club up until 1951, both in Rome and Turin. In the same year he wrote its Manifesto which in 1955 was published by Leonardo Sinisgalli in "Civiltà delle Macchine". His first one-man exhibition, with abstract-geometrical works, was held in 1951 at the Galleria Chiurazzi in Rome (an exhibition which enjoyed little favour on the part of criticism).

Also in 1951 he had his first contact with French artists, exhibiting in Paris at the "Salon des Realistes Nouvelles". For the period bridging 1951-1952 he obtained a scholarship on the part of the Fullbright Foundation, thanks to which he was able to sojourn in the United States at the University of Kansas City with the appointment as Artist in Residence. Here he created a large mural composition and recorded phonetic poems with the accompaniment of percussion instruments. In Rome he showed the 'torn poster' for the first time in an exhibition entitled "Esposizione d'arte attuale" (1955). He carried out the so-called "double décollage": that is, the poster firstly removed from the wall and then torn up in the studio. In this period he also made use of the retros d'affiche, using the verso of the posters with the result obtained of non-figurative and monochrome works.

He began to receive acknowledgements in 1956 with the Graziano Award, followed in 1957 by the Battistoni e della Pubblica Istruzione Award. With the Cinecittà series of 1958 he chose both the figures and faces of film posters, orientating his production towards works of a more figurative type. Already recognized by criticism at the close of the 1950's as being an exponent of the "Young Roman Painting, Rotella was labelled as the 'poster ripper' or the 'painter of glued paper'. In 1958 he was visited in Rome by the French critic Pierre Restany, a meeting which was to lead to a long friendship. In the same year he was included in the Roman exhibition entitled "Nuove tendenze dell'arte italiana", organized by Lionello Venturi and held in the seat of the Rome-New York Art Foundation. In 1960 he 'joined' the Nouveau Réalisme group (although he did not sign its manifesto). The theoretician of this movement was Pierre Restany and included - amongst others - names like Klein, Tinguely, César, Spoerri, Arman and Christo. The group also included the French artists Hains, Villeglé and Dufrêne who in fact also worked on the collage, albeit in an autonomous way. By working in the most total isolation Rotella had anticipated the path of his French colleagues who were only exhibited for the first time in 1957 at the Galerie Colette Allendy in Paris.

Together with his décollages Rotella also created assemblages of objects bought from junk dealers: bottle caps and stoppers, pieces of rope, twine etc.

American Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism, together with the Informal and the spatial and matteric research works carried out in Italy at the time by Fontana and Burri, played an important role in directing Rotella's pictorial orientation. In 1964 he was invited to take part in the Venice Biennial.__While the press increasingly more talked about the phenomenon of Affichisme Rotella moved to Paris where he began to elaborate a procedure of serial production by way of the projection of images in the negative on emulsified canvas. In 1972, he published an audacious autobiography titled "Autorotella".

The "Plastiforme" were created in 1975: ripped posters placed on a polyurethane support with the intention of giving them tridimensionality. In the same year he recorded his first Italian LP of phonetic poems, presented by Alfredo Todisco. In 1976 he took part in the International Recital of Sound Poetry - Poetry Action at the Atelier Annick Le Moine. Another experimentation carried out in those years was that of rolling up posters and closing them in plexiglass cubes. On having left Paris in order to set up home and studio in Milan (1980), during the 1980's he elaborated his "Blanks" or coperture d'affiches : zeroed advertising posters covered with white sheets of paper - as happens for posters that are replaced or have finished their billboard lease - following a conceptual operation. In 1992 he was conferred the title of Officiel des arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang. In 1994 he was invited to take part in "Italian Metamorphosis" held at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. In 1996 he took part in "Face ... l'Histoire" at the Centre Pompidou and in the exhibition entitled "Halls of Mirrors" held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (an exhibition that was to tour the world, Rome included). 1996 also saw the Internet inauguration of a one-man exhibition which was diffused online - the first event of its kind in Italy.

In 1997 Rotella dedicated the cycle of works entitled "Felliniana" to the films by Federico Fellini. In 1999 the Mayor of his natal city, Sergio Abramo, signed a City Council order authorizing Rotella to freely remove posters in Catanzaro and its environs.