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MCA DNA: Dieter Roth

Nov 12, 2011–Feb 26, 2012

The aesthetic production of German-Icelandic artist Dieter Roth (1930–98) features numerous inventive works of art that blur the lines between artistic media as well as poetry, music, and literary works. Known also as a consummate collaborative artist, Roth is famous for having worked with British pop artist Richard Hamilton, who died in September 2011 at the age of 89. A number of collaborative works Roth produced with Hamilton are on view in this exhibition. Although Roth created paintings, sculptures, videos, and sound and installation works, he is probably most widely known for his artist’s books, many of which are displayed in the exhibition as the artist preferred: hung on wires from the gallery ceiling.

In 1960, already a restlessly experimental artist, Roth met sculptor Jean Tinguely (Swiss, 1925–91), whose legendary “self-destructing work of art,” Homage to New York, was staged at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, to great notoriety. Tinguely’s example had a great impact on Roth. Inspired as well by the experiments of Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925–2008), who combined discarded and salvaged materials, Roth embarked on his artist’s books, which were either self-published or printed in editions ranging from 300 to 4,500 copies, a large quantity by traditional fine-arts printing standards. Initially he fashioned books out of cut-up newspapers and advertising flyers, such as Gesammelte Werke Band 5 [Collected Works Volume 5], but soon he was anthologizing other materials such as his own drawings and collections of scrap and waste paper.

By 1964, Roth had begun a lifelong journey not only as a unique and highly innovative artist but as a traveler, often visiting his great patron, Dr. Ira G. Wool, in Chicago, where Selbstbildnis as Fletscherberg [Self-portrait as glacier mountain] (1973–77) and many of Roth’s untitled, altered postcards were made. In 1984, the MCA mounted the first major US museum exhibition of Roth’s work, largely drawn from the Wool collection. Roth was fully involved, selecting works and designing the installation. He was so delighted with the show and the resulting catalogue that he donated a complete set of his artist’s books to the MCA’s newly established Artists’ Books Collection.

While at the heart of the MCA’s holdings are more than sixty of Roth’s books, the collection also features three portfolios of his lithographs—Dogs, Bats, and Trophies—and their accompanying “Speedy” two-handed drawings, as well as the Stempelkasten [Rubber Stamp Box] (1968), now considered one of his major works. These holdings are contextualized and augmented by works on loan from the Ira G. Wool collection.

MCA DNA: Dieter Roth is part of an ongoing exhibition series featuring works that constitute the building blocks of the MCA Collection and is curated by MCA Curator Lynne Warren.

Related events

Screening: Dieter Roth
Goethe institute
Thu, Jan 26, 2012, 6 pm
150 N. Michigan Ave. #200, Chicago
German with English subtitles 

More information

Funding

AA_2012

Official Airline of the Museum of Contemporary Art