Hauser & Wirth St. Moritz presents a fully-functional bar designed by Björn, Oddur and Einar Roth, son and grandsons of German-born Swiss artist Dieter Roth (1930 – 1998), alongside a rare self-portrait of the artist.
First conceived by Dieter Roth in the early 1980s, ‘the bar’ is a dynamic and changing installation and is a continuing element in the Roths’ cross-generational practice. This exhibition activates the gallery’s ground floor space as a hub for socializing, music, readings and talks.
A driving force of Post-War European art, Dieter Roth produced a diverse oeuvre during his five-decadelong career that included drawing, painting, sculpture, film, immersive installations and bookmaking. Roth experimented with materials and language, exploring the interplay of different mediums, which underscores his distinct approach to artmaking. The bar, comprised of scavenged materials, embodies a central motif found throughout Dieter Roth’s work.
Both bar and studio were central concepts and locales for the work of Dieter Roth. Since its first iteration, the bar has gradually evolved, as for each exhibition site-specific materials have been incorporated into the installation. ‘Roth Bar’ (2004 – 2015) was first unveiled in the exhibition ‘Dieter Roth: Lest / Train’ at Reykjavik Art Museum in 2005 before continuing on to Hauser & Wirth Coppermill, London (2006), HangarBicocca, Milan (2013), to Hauser & Wirth Zurich and to Hotel Les Trois Rois, Basel (2015). It was last shown in 2019 at Museum Tinguely in Basel.
The story of ‘Roth Bar’ at Hauser & Wirth began when Dieter Roth insisted that a bar form part of his first show with the gallery in 1997. Along with his son Björn, Dieter Roth installed the functional ‘Bar 2’ (1983 – 1997) in Zurich and every beer bottle served became a part of the bar installation and visitors’ conversations were recorded and archived.
‘Roth Bar’ is presented in St. Moritz alongside the rare painting ‘Doppel-Selbstbildnis (Double Self-portrait)’ (1973), revealing an important dialogue between Dieter Roth’s work from the 1970s and his wider practice.
Self-portraiture was central to Roth’s practice, which he rigorously explored through art and journals. Combining Roth’s ceaseless experimentation with his abiding interest in self-portraiture, ‘Doppel-Selbstbildnis’ is an ode to the artist’s boundless imagination. In this work, Roth renders the pictorial devices that underscore figurative painting in an enigmatic manner, challenging the conventions of traditional self-portraiture.
Executed in an Old Master style, gradually building up thin layers of oil paint to achieve a rich tonal range, Roth’s profile is cut from a plane comprised of a myriad of luminous and subtly blended colors. In line with the title, another barely visible cut-out on the curled bend is included.
One of the most influential artists of the post-World War II period, Dieter Roth was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1930, to a German mother and a Swiss father, and died in Basel, Switzerland in 1998. Dieter Roth was an artist of an immense diversity and breadth, producing books, graphics, drawings, paintings, sculptures, assemblages, installations, audio and media works involving slides, sound recordings, film and video. He also worked as a composer, poet, writer and musician. He often collaborated with other artists, subverting the principle of authorship. Those partners included such significant figures as Richard Hamilton, Emmett Williams, Arnulf Rainer, and Hermann Nitsch. But it was Roth's long and symbiotic collaboration with his son, artist Björn Roth, that stands as testament to the enormous and enduring potency of his restless, relentless process.