Ketty La Rocca: You

Visual poetry

Apollo e Dafne (1974) by Ketty La RoccaLa Galleria Nazionale

Sincerity of art

Ketty La Rocca's artistic research is nourished by a profound reflection on the universe of communication. In her work, she mixes the most varied media: poetic-visual collage, photography, the artist's book, and video.

"I will never show the worker with the handkerchief tied around his head, because I have never seen it or, if I happen to see it, I enjoy it as a discovery; it takes me twenty years to develop the situation. We must be honest, as otherwise we cannot make art."

A teacher - so awful!

Registered with the name Gaetana - soon abandoned and eliminated, Ketty La Rocca was born in La Spezia in 1938. She moved to Florence in 1956 to attend high school.

Enrolled in the conservatory, she took a liking to electronic music. To support herself, at first she worked in a radiology laboratory and, after a while, she started teaching at elementary schools: "The bad guys ask you: did you paint before? And then you say no... you say that 'you had other interests'... and, somehow, you just blurt: I was a teacher - so awful".

Visual poetry

In the early Sixties Ketty La Rocca came into contact with Group 70. Born in Florence in 1963, this group brought together musicians, semiologists, poets and avant-garde artists in the name of a new form of expression: "visual poetry".

A group with a markedly interdisciplinary spirit with the presence of figures such as Eugenio Miccini - the founder -, Gillo Dorfles, Umberto Eco, Roman Vlad, Emilio Isgrò, Ugo Carrega, among others.

Visual poetry experiences the relationship between culture and mass communication through an artistic synthesis between word and image, between writing and painting, which thus acquire new symbolic meanings, codifying a new complex and heterogeneous system that is logical-verbal and iconic at the same time.

Overturning stereotypes

La Rocca immediately turned to verbal-visual research with the aim of overturning language stereotypes, which emerged already in her first experiences as a teacher, and to which she was exposed daily as a woman and intellectual.

She creates collages of words and photographs taken from newspapers and magazines, decontextualising their signs and words, in a perspective of semantic reversal aimed at responding to the bombardment of images and messages of mass civilisation.

Hers is an ironic but at the same time gritty and politically eloquent interpretation.

Materiale d'archivio su Ketty La Rocca by Archivio Bioiconografico della Galleria NazionaleLa Galleria Nazionale


At the end of the Sixties, La Rocca moved from the production of the initial collages - and from Gruppo 70 - towards the adoption of other techniques, devising performances focused on the theme of body and gesture, in an attempt to subvert the iconic and verbal language.

Thus, she focuses on gestural communication with her hands, as in the video presented at the XXXVI Venice Biennale Appendix for a supplication (1972), one of the first videos in the history of contemporary art.

Materiale d'archivio su Ketty La Rocca by Archivio Bioiconografico della Galleria NazionaleLa Galleria Nazionale

The film showed gliding hands - those of the artist - showing, on their bare skin, the word "you", with a problematic meaning: the spectator, other than him or herself, as a way of saying 'I' but referring to the other person, very much like the other person must refer to me.

Apollo e Dafne (1974) by Ketty La RoccaLa Galleria Nazionale


Reductions was one of the latest works of La Rocca. This idea stems from an initial photo - of a family, a self-portrait, about news - which undergoes one or more transformations through the graphic schematisation of the image, creating a "corrosion” or sorts and reducing its lines and the contours of relevant shapes to black lines and surfaces (Apollo and Daphne, 1974).

Before being dissolved in a few essential signs, shapes and shadows are distorted by non-sense texts or by the repeated word "you".

"I take existing images, seen by many for a long time and rendered meaningless by collective descriptions, and I reinvigorate them with all the knowledge stereotypes I carry along until they become - in my view - something else; they become "that" image outside and above any choral reading."

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