Critics’ Picks

Dieter Roth, 246 little clouds, 1968–1976, mixed media, dimensions variable.


Dieter Roth

Hauser & Wirth | Zurich
Limmatstrasse 270
January 19–March 3

Works on paper require small and intimate rooms. The halls of the former boiler rooms of the Löwenbräu Brewery are, in contrast, bright with high ceilings. Yet the powerful industrial walls of the gallery that occupies this space lend themselves well to showing a posthumous selection of Dieter Roth’s paper works.

This is not only because the last exhibition conceived by the artist—whose output encompassed objects, performances, poetry, music, as well as conceptual, graphic, and installation art—took place in this very location, but also because Roth thought in series, sequences, and cycles, which are here—in some cases, for the first time—published in large rows and blocks that offer insight into the geneses of artworks and conceptual processes for which Roth had only temporary, never definitive, conclusions.

“Hold on. Correct and hold on” is how Roth described his artistic rationale. This phrase, coined in Große Tischruine (Large table ruin), 1978–98, a rampant and monstrous installation, can be transferred to his paper efforts without further ado: They mark off stages, serial processes that become accessible in over a dozen groups of work from all phases of the artist’s production, from Die gesamte Scheiße. 21 Originalzeichnungen (All that shit. 21 original drawings), 1968, to the acrylic-image collages, No title, 1990. Three manuscripts for the first edition of 246 little clouds, 1968–76, chart a collaboration between the artist and his friend Emmet Williams that manifests in handwritten annotations of an earlier template for volume seventeen of Roth’s Gesammelte Werke, Bande 1 20 (Collected works 1–20), 1969–79. The gallery succeeds—not only with that piece—in presenting a singular and breathtaking exhibition that would do honor to any top institution.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.