At the beginning of the Eighties Rotella permanently left Paris and settled in Milan, where he took a house in Viale Lombardia and a studio in Via Ampère.
During the winter of 1980, focusing on movie and advertising posters which had run their course, the artist decided to cover them with tissue paper: this is the “coperture” technique that Restany baptized as blanks. The first to exhibit this group of works was the art dealer Giorgio Marconi in Milan. He organized an exhibition dedicated exclusively to these works in January 1981. A second nucleus of “coperture” were exhibited the following month at the Galerie Denise René in Paris.
In 1984, between Spring and Autumn, Rotella created a series of acrylic paintings inspired by cinema, shown in the exhibition Cinecittà 2 at the Galleria Marconi in September of the same year.
The world of fashion began to stimulate his imaginery from the exhibition A Sense of the Future. Gianni Versace at the Victoria and Albert Museum held in London in 1985, for which Rotella realized some works celebrating the designer’s creations. During the same year he took part in a show at the Castello di Rivoli–near Turin– and, in 1986 at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris on the occasione of a major retrospective on the Nouveau Réalisme. Also in 1986, the mayor of Gibellina (Sicily) commissioned the artist to realize some works: for this occasion Rotella created a series of sovrapitture. Five of them became part of the collection of the Gibellina city museum, along with the travertine sculpture Omaggio a Tommaso Campanella, created in 1987.
In November 1986, Rotella left for Cuba, invited by the Ministry of Culture to the Segunda Bienal de La Habana. For the City Museum of Fine Arts, the artist created a large mural again with the sovrapittura technique. From Cuba, hemoved to Mexico, then to Los Angeles and, together with Restany, to Scottsdale (Arizona).At the end of 1986, Marconi organized a retrospective dedicated to the works produced between 1954 and 1964, accompanied by a monograph with a text by Sam Hunter.
Inspired by graffiti, he completed some sovrapitture on large metal sheets, where the graphics are particularly emphasized. This second cycle of works was exhibited at the Marconi Gallery in January 1988. Parallel to the sovrapitture on sheet metal, he worked on décollages on the same medium: he lacerated the posters with elongated and rounded slashes and often leaving the advertising or movie image beneath almost intact. Often, Rotella would add an ironic game of quotes to the two techniques, aimed at the masters of Italian art –such as Amedeo Modigliani and Giorgio De Chirico–, at himself, and at his experience as an artist, lacerating the posters of his own exhibitions.
In 1989 he exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London on the occasion of the exhibition Italian Art in the 20th Century. Paintingand Sculpture 1900–1988. In June he was invited to Moscow for the exhibition Orientamenti dell’arte italiana. Roma 1947–1989 held at the New Tretyakov Gallery, House of Artists, where he met Inna Agarounova: in May 1991, she became his wife.
In April, Achille Bonito Oliva and Pierre Restany inaugurated the solo exhibition Sovrapitture 1988/89 at the Sala della Torre dell’Oro di Castelnuovo (Naples).At the end of the year, he became artist in residence at the Daadgalerie in Berlin. At the opening of the exhibition, Rotella gave a performance of phonetic work involving poet and friend Nanni Balestrini.