Richard Roth - Under the Influence

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RICHARD ROTH Under the Influence New Paintings and Early Work

Under the Influence, 2012 Acrylic on birch plywood panel 12 x 8 x 4 inches

In 1969, just out of Cooper Union, Richard Roth began his major work as a painter. In 1993, after twenty-four years painting and exhibiting, his work became more conceptual – for twelve years his practice consisted solely of creating collections of contemporary material culture. He returned to painting in 2005 with a renewed and revitalized interest, informed by conceptualism and postmodern attitudes. This exhibition is a unique opportunity to examine Richard’s early work in relation to his recent painting; it is a bridge that jumps over his twelve-year conceptual project, connecting early and recent painting sensibilities. An exhibition of all three bodies of work is an exciting project for the future. Instead of the usual critic’s statement on the artist’s work, we decided to solicit responses from significant contemporary painters and art world aficionados familiar with Richard Roth’s practice. Each was invited to submit a short statement on Richard’s work. The responses were immediate and enthusiastic. Most statements were about Richard’s most recent work, the three-dimensional paintings, and some discussed his practice as a whole. All present unique insights and often delightful, quirky takes on Richard’s work. The statements are randomly dispersed throughout the catalogue, and placement does not correspond to nearby images. We are extremely pleased to present this exhibition which highlights the development of Richard’s inventive and conceptual approach to painting. Beverly Reynolds


Painter's Block, 2012 Acrylic on birch plywood panel 12 x 8 x 4 inches

Miss Smarty Pants, 2012 Acrylic on birch plywood panel 12 x 8 x 4 inches

Richard’s paintings are amazingly fresh and innovative. The play between the flat and the three-dimensional gives him a lot of ways to surprise a viewer. One never knows quite what to expect with these paintings, and the surprises are always funny. Richard is the master of what I call “contrachrome,” one hue (often red or yellow) with black and white. I would love to live with one of his paintings. I’m sure that Painter’s Block would solve all my problems. David Reed

Richard Roth’s work embodies a dandyish formalism. Each work is woven out of cultural and spatial games. Each work is a beautifully crafted object, yet craftsmanship is employed to create objects that are immaterial — purely speculative. Roth’s work evokes Fluxus’ sense of play, yet inflected with a dandy’s urbanity. Richard Roth’s work makes me think of the cool jazz of the 60s with its cerebral twists and turns, formed out of unexpected reinterpretations of the old standards. Peter Halley

BWG, 2012 Acrylic on birch plywood panel 12 x 8 x 4 inches

To Be Continued, 2012 Acrylic on birch plywood panel 12 x 8 x 4 inches

On the Rocks, 2012 12 x 8 x 4 inches Acrylic on birch plywood panel

Crawl Space, 2012 Acrylic on birch plywood panel 12 x 8 x 4 inches

Happy Happy Joy Joy, 2012 Acrylic on birch plywood panel 12 x 8 x 4 inches

The spare, hard-edged forms of Richard’s recent paintings may at first belie their humor and humanity. His precise geometry evokes the elegant remove and obdurate thingness of Donald Judd’s “specific objects”— boxes, stacks, and bull-noses meant to refer to nothing beyond themselves. But Richard bends the language of Minimalism to his own ends, subtly reconnecting it to the world at large. His work recalls Ellsworth I was introduced to Richard’s work by my Dutch

Kelly’s sourcing of everyday shapes for his reductive aesthetic, and Piet

gallerist Rob de Vries. Visiting Minus Space in New

Mondrian’s allusion to underlying patterns of nature by means of grids

York some time later, artist-curator Matthew Deleget

and rectangles.

showed me some of Richard’s early gouaches from the seventies. They were very delicately executed,

I like to think of Richard as a latter day Bauhaus or Constructivist artist:

and the modesty of size, precise execution and

committed to abstraction and believing in the promise of good design

clarity of color and shape resembled the boxes

and careful execution. His paintings underscore his egalitarian view

which were sent to the gallery some time later. This

that “intelligent sensitivity” can be found equally in the handmade

is what is the most striking to me; the boxes are

and mass produced, in high art and functional objects. In their vaguely

not the macho large size sculptures we know from

familiar patterns, tendency toward simplification, and suggestion of

the Minimalists. They are beautiful and attractive

underlying rationality, his painted boxes suggest harmony among fine

small objects, somewhere in between painting,

art, craft, and popular culture. In this, they seem a cleverly belated and

sculpture and design. They seem more intuitive

yet perfectly timely affirmation of the avant-garde wish for a fusion of

than rational, despite their apparent geometry

formal beauty and the commonplace.

and clear concept. In all this, the work is very contemporary and young at heart.

John B. Ravenal Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Jan Maarten Voskuil

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

There isn’t didacticism in Richard's work, the visual games seem just that — games. We are not being oppressed, we are being invited. The challenge isn’t in understanding graphic design or being wowed by optical effects, it is in engaging in our own experience and our own understanding of what it means to encounter a weird thing in space. Richard Aldrich

How absurd to talk of the end of abstraction, much less the end of painting! There are always corners to be turned, pathways that seem to stop, and then suddenly the vista opens wide up. Clear thinking combined with aesthetic restlessness combined with unrelenting skill combined with unswerving determination will end up producing surprising, necessary art. Richard Roth’s paintings make sense (and sensibility). They should be seen and studied by anyone who has the slightest doubt of painting’s continued viability and power. Richard Kalina

Richard Roth’s current works can be viewed metaphorically as compact gifts. These highly discrete works dialectically synthesize two prior groups of work, devoted first to Roth’s reinterpretations of early twentieth-century constructivist art and second his collections of such ephemera as commercial signs, bureaucratic documents, and news photographs. Roth’s recent paintings are constructivist in outlook, with great attention paid to their overall painted surfaces, including their four pronounced sides. Viewed as a group, they comprise collections of objects and also appear to encompass secretive contents within their box-like confines. Roth’s package

Roth’s works unfold and complicate the extreme and mean ratio

paintings thus deliver a wallop far bigger than their

otherwise named the golden mean, golden section, divine proportion,

size, since their prominent depth, thoughtfully

golden cut or medial section. He acquaints the aesthetic ideal with

deliberated concision, and overall arresting design

illusionary conceits, graphic adornments and color effects. With

transform painting into a volumetric container,

exquisite craft and homogenous light-absorbing surfaces Roth’s

whose mysterious inside belies its meticulously

compositions assembled from reductive hardedge visual vocabulary

articulated and accessible exterior.

result in a vast and surprising range of invention that skillfully advances contemporary painting and sculptural form. Sometimes

Robert Hobbs

wry, sometimes beholden, Roth’s work engages the malfunction of our

Rhoda Thalhimer Endowed Chair of American Art

visual system while pushing up against the ethical principles of De Stijl.

Department of Art History Virginia Commonwealth University

Michelle Grabner

Double Dutch, 2012 Acrylic on wood panels, steel chain 94 ½ x 77 inches


Untitled (black, white, pink), 1990 Acrylic, enamel paint, plastic laminate, wood, steel 96 ½ x 72 x 9 inches

Untitled from 1971: this very seventies ”titlewithout-a-title” doesn’t give us a clue. But, I think you will find clues in this painting to the dualities and sources that are more explicitly named in Richard Roth's more recent work. I remember Richard telling me (in 1976) that his paintings on glass were “shiny… like new cars," and influenced by reverse painting on glass as seen in shop windows. There was in this work an equal reverence for high art and the “ordinary”

I love that the new works don’t want to be paintings and don’t want to be sculptures. Something else is going on. I really don’t know what it is, but somehow the craft of them and the thickness feel so wrong that they are super interesting. These works are not embarrassed to exist; there is no apology to them. Joanne Greenbaum

that reverberates through the years in pieces like Fire Chief and Painter’s Block. Richard’s work has, within a language of formal constraint, championed an art of “both, and” rather than

In his work and life, Richard embraces all forms of human creativity and

“either, or.”

inventiveness without hierarchies, but with curiosity, delight, and humor.

Stephen Pentak

Rebecca Shore

Fire Chief, 1988 Acrylic on wood panel with fire extinguisher 61 ½ x 69 ½ x 5 inches

Richard Roth’s recent “paintings” and previously his constructs and collections are cunning artifacts that alter perception and create new narratives. What one may surmise is that his thinking about art is premised on the view that abstract art in particular can give metaphorical representation to his concerns for our relationship to power, authority, and self. This lies in its ability to be used to challenge those expectations and conventions,

I was an undergraduate at Tyler School of Art when Richard was a

which are associated with complacency. As such his

graduate student. His studio was across the hall from the silk-screen

work tends to be built on the primacy of experience,

room, where I worked a lot and where he occasionally made prints.

self-reflection and engagement. In this manner it

Of course, I liked his personality – he was wonderful, charming, funny

bridges our understanding of the differing agendas

even then. But the thing I remember was his painting. They were big

that form the numerous territories of everyday life.

monochromatic paintings that sat on the floor, and the image of that work really stuck with me, in a puzzling good way, need I say more.

Saul Ostrow Critic and Curator

Polly Apfelbaum

Untitled (yellow, black, with hole), 1981 Acrylic on birch plywood 24 x 9 ½ inches

Untitled (black/white split, with hole), 1981 Acrylic on birch plywood 24 x 9 ½ inches

Untitled (yellow, black, white, with hole), 1981 Acrylic on birch plywood 24 x 9 ½ inches

Untitled (black circle and white, with hole), 1980 Acrylic on birch plywood 24 x 9 ½ inches

Untitled (white gold diamonds), 1970 Enamel paint, white gold leaf, glass 60 x 60 inches

Untitled (yellow corner), 1971 Enamel paint, glass 72 x 72 inches

Richard Roth's paintings are fantastically economical. These small works happily remind me of early Ellsworth Kelly, but in Roth's case it's as if the space/image of a Kelly was trapped in a shoebox, pushing outward at its edges, attempting to reveal its entire self in three dimensions. The space we witness is that moment where the flat image and the shape of the box have become one. Richard Roth’s box paintings are the perfect coming

Douglas Melini

together of image and object. Somewhere between sculpture and painting, they juxtapose high art and pop culture. They seem to embody everything from classic ‘art concret’ to contemporary design and

Richard walks the line, territory partially explored by Nick Krushenick,

yet manage to remain both original and serious in

Jo Baer, and more recently Ann Pibal. His is an enterprise where signage

intent. With both a playful earnestness and a tongue

leads us deeper into physical space and also into psychical realms.

firmly in cheek, Roth finishes these pieces with crisp

But he also has no fear of sailing his schooner off the edge of Flatland;

precision. The result is good clean fun.

proving the essentialists wrong, once again. His is an elegant and sophisticated mischief; may he misbehave forever!

Richard van der Aa Director, ParisCONCRET

James Siena


Double Dutch, 2012. A series of paintings that included found objects, painted panels and free-hanging chains was first created in 2004. As experimental prototypes they were not exhibited but are now being reconsidered and new work is developing. Double Dutch adheres closely to an original prototype. Untitled (black, white, pink), 1990. The two painted panels on the right side of Untitled (black, white, pink) were reconstructed in 2012, conforming exactly to the original work. Fire Chief, 1988. Fire Chief was totally reconstructed in 2012, based on original drawings and photographic records, conforming exactly to the original work which was destroyed. Untitled (yellow, black, with hole), 1981; Untitled (yellow, black, white, with hole), 1981; Untitled (black/white split, with hole), 1981; Untitled (black circle and white, with hole), 1980. These four paintings were reconstructed in 2012, based on original drawings and photographic records, conforming exactly to the original works which were destroyed. Untitled (white gold diamonds), 1970; Untitled (yellow corner), 1971. These two paintings are painted on the reverse side of one-quarter inch thick, polished-plate glass. Reflected images in the photographs in this catalogue have been retained to more accurately represent the interactive/reflective surface of these paintings. Richard Roth, 2012


Richard Roth has exhibited nationally and internationally. Exhibitions include Tomlinson Kong Contemporary and McKenzie Fine Art, both New York; Devening Projects + Editions, Chicago, IL; David Richard Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM; Galerie Rob de Vries, The Netherlands; Highland Institute of Contemporary Art, Scotland; Rocket Gallery, London; ParisCONCRET, France; The Suburban, Oak Park, IL; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and Reynolds Gallery, Richmond, VA; UCR/California Museum of Photography, Riverside, CA; the Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, Japan; Feigen, Inc., Chicago, IL; the Whitney Museum of American Art and Castelli Warehouse, both New York. He was the recipient of a Visual Artists Fellowship in Painting from the National Endowment for the Arts (1991), an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artists Fellowship, and a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship in Painting. Richard received an MFA from the Tyler School of Art and a BFA from The Cooper Union. He is co-editor of the book Beauty is Nowhere: Ethical Issues in Art and Design, and co-author of Color Basics and Design Basics 3D. He has taught at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago; the University of California, Berkeley; New York University; and Ohio State University. He was the Director of Solvent Space, an experimental exhibition space in Richmond, Virginia from 2005–2009, and is currently a professor in the Painting and Printmaking Department at Virginia Commonwealth University where he was Department Chair from 1999–2008.


McKenzie Fine Art. Line and Plane. Group exhibition, New York, NY. September 2012. Devening Projects + Editions. Dorothee Joachim and Richard Roth. Two-person exhibition, Chicago, IL. April 2012. Tomlinson Kong Contemporary. No Hazmats. Solo exhibition, New York, NY. November 2011. David Richard Contemporary. Solo exhibition, Santa Fe, NM. September 2011. Galerie Rob de Vries. Group exhibition, Haarlem, The Netherlands. July 2011. Highland Institute of Contemporary Art. Vernacular Modernism. Solo exhibition, Dalcrombie, Scotland. May 2011. David Richard Contemporary. Op, Pop and Geo Again. Group exhibition, Santa Fe, NM. December 2011. The Suburban. Solo exhibition, Oak Park, IL. June 2010. Pentimenti Gallery. Superimpose. Three-person exhibition, Philadelphia, PA. May 2010. Reynolds Gallery. Perimeter Check. Solo exhibition, Richmond, VA. March 2010. SNO, Contemporary Art Projects. Solo exhibition, Sydney, Australia. November 2009. Frederieke Taylor Gallery. Color as Structure. Four-person exhibition curated by Julie Langsam in the Viewing Room, New York, NY. September 2009. Triple Candie. Painting, Smoking, and Eating, a Case Room Project. New York, NY. September 2009. ParisCONCRET. Three-person exhibition, Paris, France. June 2009. Rocket Gallery. Merger: New Minimal Painting in Dialogue With Contemporary Furniture Design. Group exhibition, London, UK. October 2008.

Reynolds Gallery. New Paintings. Solo exhibition, exhibition essay by Stephen Westfall, Richmond, VA. November 2007. Lamar Dodd School of Art Main Gallery, University of Georgia. Cowboy Magic. Solo exhibition, exhibition essay by Saul Ostrow, Athens, GA. September 2007. McDonough Museum of Art. Modeling the Photographic: The End(s) of Photography. Curated by Saul Ostrow, group exhibition, Youngstown, OH. February 2007. Lab Gallery. Chronicle. Three-person exhibition with Siemon Allen and Royce Howes, New York, NY. March 2006. Reynolds Gallery. Solo exhibition, Richmond, VA. September 2003. School of Visual Arts Gallery. Americana. Group exhibition, New York, NY. February 2003. Virginia Museum of Fine Art. Grief: A Collection. Solo exhibition, Richmond, VA. January 2002. Trans Hudson Gallery. Solo exhibition in the project room, New York, NY. December 2000. Shillam + Smith. Form(s): A Collection. Solo exhibition, London, UK. December 1998. Nexus Contemporary Art Center. Installation. Atlanta, GA. November 1998. California Museum of Photography, University of California, Riverside. Solo exhibition, Riverside, CA. March 1998. TZ’Art & Co. Testwall Installation. New York, NY. July 1995. Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, Japan. The Language of Place. Group exhibition curated by Sarah Rogers, Wexner Center, Director of Exhibitions. October 1994. SPACES Gallery. Form Out of Context. Four-person exhibition, Cleveland, OH. June 1993.

Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art. Ohio Selections X. Group exhibition, Cleveland, OH. November 1991. Feigen, Inc. Solo exhibition, Chicago, IL. June 1991. Feigen, Inc. Group exhibition, Chicago, IL. May 1991. Bess Cutler Gallery. The New Eccentricity: Sculpture. Group exhibition curated by Frederieke Taylor, New York, NY. March 1990. Penine Hart Gallery. Painting Between the Paradigms Part IV: A Category of Objects as Yet Unnamed. Group exhibition curated by Saul Ostrow, New York, NY. March 1990. Toni Birckhead Gallery. Solo exhibition, Cincinnati, OH. January 1990. Dart Gallery. Formal. Group exhibition, Chicago, IL. November 1988. The Contemporary Arts Center. Biennial II Exhibition. Cincinnati, OH. September 1988. Toni Birckhead Gallery. Group exhibition, Cincinnati, Ohio. June 1986. A.R.C. Raw Space. Solo exhibition, Chicago, IL. November 1985. SPACES Gallery. Three-person exhibition, Cleveland, OH. November 1985. C.A.G.E. Solo exhibition, Cincinnati, OH. March 1985. John Davis Gallery. Group exhibition, Akron, OH. September 1983. Houghton Gallery at The Cooper Union. Group exhibition, New York, NY. October 1982. Chicago State University. Two-person exhibition, Chicago, IL. April 1980.

Jan Cicero Gallery. Three-person exhibition, Chicago, IL. June 1979. Marianne Deson Gallery. Group exhibition, Chicago, IL. December 1978. Van Doren Gallery. Group exhibition, San Francisco, CA. August 1978. N.A.M.E Gallery. Four Fourths. Group exhibition, Chicago, IL. December 1977. O.K. Harris Gallery. Solo exhibition, New York, NY. June 1972. The Institute of Contemporary Art. Group exhibition, Boston, MA. March 1971. Dayton Art Institute. Group exhibition, Dayton, OH. September 1970. Flint Institute of Art. The Director’s Choice. Group exhibition, Flint, MI. 1970. O.K. Harris Gallery. Solo exhibition, New York, NY. April 1970. Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami. Group exhibition, Miami, FL. January 1970. Whitney Museum of American Art. 1969 Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting. New York, NY. December 1969. Parker Street 470 Gallery. Group exhibition, Boston, MA. November 1969. O.K. Harris Gallery. Group exhibition, New York, NY. October 1969. Castelli Warehouse. 4 Painters for Spring. Group exhibition, New York, NY. May 1969.

Wyatt Julien Sall at No Hazmats, Roth's exhibition at Tomlinson Kong Contemporary, NYC, January 2012.

Published on the occasion of the exhibition RICHARD ROTH Under the Influence: New Paintings and Early Work January 11– February 23, 2013 REYNOLDS GALLERY 1514 West Main Street Richmond, Virginia 23220 (804) 355-6553 © 2012 Reynolds Gallery Inc. Cover: Miss Smarty Pants (detail), 2012 Acrylic on birch plywood panel 12 x 8 x 4 inches Design: Teresa Ilnicki

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