Best known for his extensive work with books and multiples, artist and writer Dieter Roth (1930 – 1998) had a substantial influence on the development of the modern artist’s book. Roth was born in Hanover to German and Swiss parents and apprenticed as a graphic designer from 1947 to 1951. In the 1950s, he began experimenting with the book format, making works in which the book served not as a container for the reproduction of art but as art itself. These books often took the form of portfolios or spiral-bound books with cut-outs but with no written text. One example of this series of work is Book (1958), a portfolio of black-and-white or colored cards with handcut slots of different sizes and arrangements. From 1958 to 1964, he created over thirty of these books.
Roth also explored rearranging existing texts and assembling them into new forms. Stuffing ground-up books or newspapers, lard, and spices into sausage casing, Roth made approximately fifty versions of his famous Literaturwurst (1961-70). He welcomed change in the work, even decay, and embraced accident and the use of food as a material to introduce an element of chance into his art. Staple Cheese: A Race (1970), which consists of pictures made of cheese that slid down the gallery wall, and Big Sunset (1968), a print made of sausage and blue and white cards, are two examples.
In making his many books, Roth used a variety of creative approaches. He experimented with concrete poetry and wrote several novels. In works such as Mundunculum (1967), he used symbols corresponding to letters of the alphabet to create compositions that resisted easy interpretation. In some of the most influential books he made Roth used a multiplicity of printing and collaging techniques to form a layered accumulation of materials and information. Notable among these works are Snow (1964-69), Copley Book (1965), and 246 Little Clouds (1968).
Roth received a great deal of recognition for his pioneering work late in his career. He participated in the Venice Biennale in 1992. He was the subject of a posthumous retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 2004 and more recently of another MoMA show, called Wait, Later This Will be Nothing (2013), which focused on his most prolific period from 1960 to 1975.
Books by Dieter Roth available from Boreas Fine Art:
Rot, Diter (Dieter Roth). Die Blaue Flut. Stuttgart:Edition Hansjörg Mayer. 1967.
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