HangarBicocca, the contemporary art institution supported by Pirelli, presents Islands
an exhibition of works by Dieter Roth and Björn Roth, curated by Vicente Todolí
Islands is the first anthological show in Italy devoted to Dieter Roth,
one of the most important artists of the twentieth century,
with the collaboration of his son Björn.
Installations, sculptures made of sugar and chocolate, assemblages, prints and videos all point to a form of art viewed as a life experience and as boundless research
6 November 2013 – 9 February 2014
Opening 5 November 2013
From 6 November 2013 to 9 February 2014, HangarBicocca, the Pirelli contemporary art space, presents Islands, an anthological exhibition by Dieter Roth and Björn Roth. This is the first in a series of exhibition projects curated by the artistic advisor Vicente Todolí.
For the first time in Italy, the event brings together over 50 works by Dieter Roth (Hanover, 1930 – Basel, 1998), a key figure on the international art scene of the past fifty years. It is being put on with the collaboration of his son Björn. The display is quite unique in the way that the imposing installations interact with the former industrial space of HangarBicocca. The public will be taken on a journey through thematic “islands” in the multidisciplinary creative universe of this brilliant artist, whose work has revolutionised the way art is made and seen.
Economy Bar (2004-2013) is a bar open to the public and fully operational, with a long counter, some sinks and a beer tap, musical instruments and a module of the closed-circuit surveillance system, used until recently in the entrance to Pirelli, added to the version of the work made for HangarBicocca . This work greets the visitors at the entrance of the exhibition: capturing them in an uninterrupted flow of art production and daily life, which is the stylistic feature of all the work of Roth and his assistants.
Among the most impressive works in the exhibition, The Relatively New Sculpture was specially made for HangarBicocca by Björn Roth, together with his sons Einar and Oddur Roth and Davíđ ūķr Jķnsson. It appears as a large walk-through installation that engages the viewer, divided into two square platforms connected by a passageway, on which, together with lights, old 1950s signs and desks, there are various musical instruments, salvaged shortly before being thrown away. At the heart of the work is the idea of being able to make music with broken instruments, which can be played by the viewers themselves, thus creating new sounds.
This aspect runs through all the works in the exhibition, such as The Floor I (1973-1992) and The Floor II (1977-1998), both of which consist of floors from the artist’s studio in Iceland. Here they are taken out of context and transformed into abstract images, forming the backdrop to a real kitchen (New York Kitchen, 2013), which has also been used by Roth’s staff to prepare some of the works on show.
An insatiable researcher in every field of creativity and knowledge, Dieter Roth was a graphic artist, poet, expert in music, and designer. He explored every medium and type of art, combining painting, sculpture, printing, photography, videos and sound in all-encompassing works. Fascinated by the mechanisms of transformation, Roth used a vast array of materials and objects such as utensils, furnishings, monitors, and food in a process that revealed the constant mutability of the work.
His interest in the olfactory, chromatic and sculptural characteristics of organic materials and their decay led him to transform an old house in Hamburg into the Schimmelmuseum (Mould Museum). This exhibition space, where the artist displayed his works, made mainly between 1964 and 1971, was open to the public until 2004.
To this interest refer the creations in chocolate and sugar, of which the towers made of little self-portrait and zoomorphic sculptures – Zuckerturm (Sugar Tower) 1994-2013, and Selbstturm (Self Tower), 1994-2013 – and the work Coquillen-Zwerge (Coquille Gnomes) 1994/2013,,).
Roth’s artistic vision, which includes knowledge and action, experience and manual skills in performative works, is fully illustrated at HangarBicocca. During the one-and-a-half month installation, the 4500 square metres of exhibition space devoted to the display have been turned into a workshop – a craftsman’s studio where the “Roth dynasty” has continued to hand down ways of creating art in the making.
The works have been not just installed but also, in some cases, produced by Björn Roth, who worked with his father for over twenty years, and by the artist’s historic collaborators – who include his grandchildren Oddur and Einar – breaking down the barriers between the personal and the artistic spheres. Some of the works on show are the result of cooperation between the artist and his son. These include Material Paintings, assemblages of abstract painting and superimpositions of materials such as clothes, fabrics and instruments, and Grosse Tischruine (Large Table Ruin). Begun in 1978 as an organism in perennial transformation, this work started out from a pile of objects on Roth’s own workbench, rearranged in different ways for each exhibition.
Real-life experience and art intertwine and blend together also in the large Solo Scenes installation (1997-1998), one of the artist’s best-known works, for it was also shown at documenta11 in 2002 and at the most recent Venice Biennale. 131 monitors show everyday and intimate scenes of the artist, creating an open, real-time diary of the last years of his life. die Die DIE VERDAMMTE SCHEISSE (the The THE DAMNED SHIT) of 1974/1975, on the other hand, consists of 52 prints placed in a wooden box, formed of a series of images obtained by recycling copper plates rejected by a printing shop as “defective”. The work asserts the value of the recovery process that appears in all Roth’s works, in this case applied not just to the materials but also to the images themselves.
The exhibition also celebrates Iceland, so loved by the artist, who lived there with his first wife, the mother of his four children. The island is a powerful part of the iconography that he produced right up to the time of his death. Reykjavik Slides (1973-1975 and 1990-1998) is an exceptional documentation of the over 30,000 buildings that existed in the island’s capital until 1998, while the SURTSEY and SURTSEY - Dinner series (1974) consists of 36 prints of the island of Surtsey, which formed in 1963 after the eruption of an underwater volcano.
The over 60 Piccadillies prints, here shown together for the first time, constitute one of the artist’s most original and interesting projects. Created between 1969 and 1974, they became a stunning example of Roth’s passion for prints and graphic art, which played a key role in his work. They are the result of an innovative process perfected by the artist himself: the pictures of the famous square in London, taken from postcards in the collection of Rita Donagh, the wife of Richard Hamilton and herself an artist, were blown up and reprocessed with broad swathes of colour, creating unique pieces that invite us to reflect on the concept of the original and of reproducibility in works of art.
A tirelessly nomadic artist, Dieter Roth (Hanover 1930 – Basel 1998) spent the early years of his life in Germany and Switzerland, where he trained as a graphic artist, studying printing and engraving techniques. From 1961 to 1964 he lived in Iceland, where he set up a small publishing company in Reykjavik. During these years he shifted away from the abstract-geometrical style of Concretism towards the poetic vision of Nouveau Réalisme. Between 1964 and 1966 he lived in the United States, where his first solo exhibition was put on at the Museum College of Art in Philadelphia and where he taught the graphic arts class at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. During this period Roth began creating works and prints using organic matter and food, concentrating on the changeability of the work of art. He later travelled around Germany, Austria and Iceland, where he continued his work on creating artist’s books. At the same time he experimented with found objects and video, producing works that reveal the influence of Fluxus. Dieter Roth’s work has been acclaimed since the 1980s and indeed he represented Switzerland at the Venice Biennale in 1982 with his Diary installation of 40 films which portray the artist’s life. This led to a period of introspection, which was to characterise his later investigations. In the 1990s, together with health problems, which led to his death in 1998, he received ever greater honours and exhibitions devoted to his works in the world’s leading institutions.
In 1999 he was presented posthumously with Solo Scenes at the Venice Biennale directed by Harald Szeemann. Important retrospectives have been shown at MACBA – Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (2002); at the Museum Ludwig and the Schaulager, Basel, (both 2003); at MoMA in New York (2004 and 2013); at PS1 in New York (2004); at the Museu Serralves in Oporto (2008); and at the Camden Arts Centre in London (2013). His works have been shown at three editions (4, 6 and 11) of the most accredited international art show, documenta.
On September 2014 Kunsthaus Zug, Switzerland, will show the first comprehensive overview of Roth’s work related to music. The exhibition, which has been developed in close collaboration with Musik-Akademie Basel and Edizioni Periferia, will travel to Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin.
Pirelli and HangarBicocca
HangarBicocca is run by Pirelli which, as Founding Member and Promoter now entirely supports its activities. Given a new lease of life in 2012 with exhibitions by international artists, over the past year HangarBicocca has attracted more than 230,000 visitors from Italy and around the world. Pirelli’s commitment to offer everyone free access to a calendar of such a high level is the natural continuation of its long dedication to culture, research and innovation that has been an inherent part of the company ever since it was first set up 140 years ago. Contemporary art is the medium that best reflects the values of innovation, openness to diversity, and a search for solutions capable of anticipating the future.
The HangarBicocca exhibition programme
Islands, the anthological exhibition of works by Dieter Roth and Björn Roth, is part of the programme of exhibitions devised by Vicente Todolí and Andrea Lissoni. The project has also been designed to relate to The Visitors, the installation by Ragnar Kjartansson (Reykjavík, 1976) which will remain on show in the “Shed” until 5 January 2014. With their shared themes, the exhibitions bring about a dialogue on the concept of the constantly changing, total work of art. The HangarBicocca calendar will continue with exhibitions of works by Micol Assaël (January 2014), Cildo Meireles (April 2014), Pedro Paiva and João Maria Gusmão (June 2014), Joan Jonas (September 2014), Céline Condorelli (October 2014), Juan Muņoz (February 2014) and Damián Ortega (March 2015).
Title of the exhibition Islands
Artists Dieter Roth and Björn Roth
Curated by Vicente Todolí
Opening 5 November Dates 6 November 2013 – 9 February 2014
Address Via Chiese 2, Milano, Italy
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