Roth Time: A Dieter Roth Retrospective

March 12–June 7, 2004

Roth Time: A Dieter Roth Retrospective opens in its only U.S. venues, MoMA QNS and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, on March 12, 2004, and remains on view through June 7. The first comprehensive survey in the United States to highlight the work of Dieter Roth (1930-1998), one of the most influential European artists of the postwar period, spans 50 years of his oeuvre. The exhibition presents approximately 375 artworks, including five large-scale installations at P.S.1, and explores the full range of Roth's creative accomplishments: paintings, drawings, graphic works, books, sculptures, installations, and film and video works. This is the first exhibition to be presented jointly at MoMA and at P.S.1.

The exhibition was organized by Schaulager Basel, Switzerland, in collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art, New York and Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany. Roth Time is organized for The Museum of Modern Art by Gary Garrels, Chief Curator, Department of Drawings, and Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, and for P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center by Klaus Biesenbach, P.S.1 Chief Curator. Roth Time was the debut exhibition at Schaulager Basel and was subsequently presented at Museum Ludwig.

Roth Time celebrates a radical individualist who spurned international art capitals and movements, and instead followed his own creative path in Iceland and Switzerland. In recent years Roth's critical reputation has grown, and his restlessness and inventiveness have influenced a new generation of artists. The MoMA QNS portion of the exhibition charts the development of Roth's work from its beginnings in the mid-1940s through the late 1990s. At P.S.1, five of the most complex, large-scale sculpture and media works are presented in an integrated installation.

Mr. Garrels says, "Art and life for Roth flowed readily into each other and were impossible to separate. His work has a diversity and a logical coherence that establish him as one of the most singular and important artists of the second half of the century." Regarding the installations on view at P.S.1, Mr. Biesenbach adds, "They bring together different periods of his life, showing where and how he worked, where and how he lived, when he left and when he returned. These ever-changing works possess the quality of self-portraits of the artist."

The P.S.1 presentation of Roth Time comprises five of the artist's largest and most complex works exploring the subjects of time, decay, and the diary. In 1970 Roth began work on Gartenskulptur (Garden sculpture), a project that would continue even beyond his death. Continuously augmented and developed over a period of almost thirty years, Gartenskulptur is a meditation on collection, decay, and metamorphosis. The installation's first manifestation was a bust Roth formed from birdseed and chocolate that was placed on an outdoor platform for birds to pick apart. Over time Roth added to the sculpture, placing various small art pieces and pre-installation sketches and drawings of the work itself on and around the platform. Every incarnation of the piece incorporates materials found on site, and the waste that results from Gartenskulptur's exposure to the elements is recycled back into the work through a system of tunnels and preserving jars, allowing the work to grow with every installation. Installed with the assistance of Björn Roth, the artist's son and collaborator, Gartenskulptur shares its exhibition space with the workshop where its progress is monitored and developed.

In the same gallery is Fussboden (Floor, 1975-92), a wooden studio floor covered with pigment and glue. To create this piece, Roth literally removed the floor from his studio in Iceland and installed it directly in front of a gallery wall, as one would place a painting. This textured, ruptured canvas functions as a record of Roth's actions from 1975 to 1992 and asserts that a studio floor is just as much a work of art as the works produced upon its surface.

In 1973 Roth began a long-term project known as Flacher Abfall (Flat waste), for which he collected food packaging and other found scraps, subsequently encasing them in over 600 binders and filing them in bookshelves. This piece addresses Roth's artistic role as collector, cataloguer, and archivist. Preserving the refuse that he and others had left behind, Roth created both an autobiographical record and an environment in which the viewer is forced to confront the ephemeral nature of existence through exposure to the collection of garbage.

Reykjavik, Iceland, was an important place in the artist's professional and private life. Reykjavik Slides (1973-75 and 1990-93) comprises 30,000 photographic slides purporting to document every single building in the Icelandic capital. Solo Szenen (Solo scenes, 1997-98), also shot primarily in Reykjavik, is an installation composed of 131 video monitors and players stacked in a grid of three wooden shelves, each presenting continuous footage of the artist going about his daily routine. Solo Szenen, the culmination of a series of written, film, and video diaries that Roth began in the early 1980s, is his attempt at illustrating life as the accumulation of vast quantities of fragments of data.


  • Dieter Roth
    Gartenskulptur (Garden sculpture) (1968-96)
    Wood, wire, rope, metal, construction materials and objects, furnishings, plants, video equipment, monitors, painting utensils, liquids in glasses, foodstuffs, toys, clothing, pigments, photographs, drawings, multiples and collages
    Dimensions variable
    Flick Collection

  • Dieter Roth
    Gartenskulptur (Garden sculpture) (1968-96)
    Flick Collection

  • Dieter Roth
    Gartenskulptur (Garden sculpture) (1968-96)
    Flick Collection

 

The exhibition is organized by Schaulager Basel in collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art, New York and Museum Ludwig, Cologne. The exhibition is made possible by Schaulager Basel and the Laurenz Foundation. Additional generous support is provided by Kathleen and Richard Fuld, Novartis, and The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art. The Museum also acknowledges the assistance of Mimi and Peter Haas, Pro Helvetia, and The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art. The accompanying educational programs are made possible by BNP Paribas. The installations at P.S.1 are supported by James Family Foundation.