Home » Ketty la Rocca: Visual Poetry between revolution and self-definition

Ketty la Rocca: Visual Poetry between revolution and self-definition

di Aurora Rossini
Ketty La Rocca

Ketty La Rocca

Why is it important to divide artists according to their biological sex, their attributed at birth gender?

In itself, it is not. Or rather, it would not be if throughout history there had not been a gigantic cultural bias that led to the predilection of AMAB talents. Words and concepts such as AMAB (Assigned Male At Birth), cultural bias and biological sex are now within the reach of anyone with an internet connection, enough curiosity and common sense. However, without even going too far back in world history and in art, the movement of universal recognition of talent regardless that is occurring today would not have been possible without the battles and strength of the activists of yesterday.


In that miasma of legitimations and manifestations of the self and the social that were, in Italy, the 60s, among the many artists who animated the cultural debate, the writer is keen to put a spotlight – never big enough – on Ketty La Rocca and her historical and cultural relevance in the Italian artistic panorama of those years and beyond. What would have proved to be an untiring research on the relationship between word, image and society, has manifested itself since the dawn of La Rocca’s career with her studies with Gruppo 70 and her undeniable contribution to the Italian neo-avant-garde of Visual Poetry.

Ketty La Rocca

Ketty La Rocca
Ketty la Rocca: Visual Poetry between revolution and self-definition – Ketty La Rocca, “Le Mie Parole” (2) My Words, 1973 Drawing on photo. Courtesy of Kadel Willborn, Düsseldorf

Through the analysis of the relationship between the dominant culture and its semiotic relationship with the visual culture of the time, in a sardonic intertwining of politics, culture and art, the corpus of Ketty La Rocca tackles,  with both irony and harshness, the role of the figure of the woman and her constant representation of subordinate – and of “stranger” to put it in de Beauvoir’s style – in the purely masculine and sexist society of her time. The use of the union between the infinite expressive potential of the words and the overwhelming power of images, combined with the strong political component and cultural retaliation with which La Rocca permeates her works, are just few of the elements that turns the Ligurian artist not only as one of the leading exponents plan of the Italian neo-avant-garde but also a key figure in the development of that relationship between Art, Culture and Mass Media which now as then remains at the center of the cultural debate.

Ketty La Rocca

Ketty La Rocca
Ketty la Rocca: Visual Poetry between revolution and self-definition – Ketty La Rocca, “Bianco Napalm”, 1967. Archivio Ketty La Rocca di Michelangelo Vasta Firenze

In her incessant wandering between worlds, La Rocca also analyzes the role of the visual mass media in vogue at the time – television, cinema and advertising – in the development and definition not only of an image of the woman distorted and man-oriented but also of the fundamental link between word and image, between identity and society, between mass media and information, in a not even veiled yet marvelous critique of the dominant system within which she found herself operating in.

Still, in Italy at least, being a woman and doing my work is incredibly difficult.

(Ketty La Rocca, letter to Lucy Lippard, summer 1975)

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