Richard Roth (born in Brooklyn 1946), is an artist and designer whose work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. In 1991 he was the recipient of a Visual Artists Fellowship in Painting from the National Endowment for the Arts. He received an MFA from the Tyler School of Art and a BFA from The Cooper Union. His work has been exhibited at Rocket Gallery, London; Penine Hart Gallery, Bess Cutler Gallery, Trans Hudson Gallery, New York; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and Reynolds Gallery, Richmond; Shillam + Smith, London; UCR/California Museum of Photography; the Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, Japan; Feigen, Inc., Chicago; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. He is the co-editor of the book, Beauty is Nowhere: Ethical Issues in Art and Design and co-author of Color Basics. He was the Director of Solvent Space in Richmond, Virginia, 2005 – 2009. He is currently a faculty member in the Painting and Printmaking Department at Virginia Commonwealth University.
For me now, painting is like returning home. I painted for many years, then for a decade my practice became more conceptual - creating collections of contemporary material culture. I returned to painting in 2006 with a renewed interest, fueled by conceptualism and informed by postmodern attitudes. The new paintings claim object status enabling them to tap into the 3D polychrome universe - product and package design, nature, architecture, popular culture, custom cars, and fashion. I am now making my own ideal collection - inclusions to this set of objects are carefully controlled.
My work owes a lot to optical illusions. When I first saw the Ebbinghaus illusion, I thought, That’s what abstract painting should be doing–exploring how the brain works! The paintings of Josef Albers and John McLaughlin function that way: a deeper mind/eye exploration, really, than the entire Op Art crew.
Cities and pillars:
I was born in Brooklyn, raised on Long Island, and I presently live and work in Southern California. My formative years as an artist were in New York City [he earned a BFA from New York’s Cooper Union and an MFA from Philadelphia’s Tyler School of Art], and I think I’ve pretty much carried those early New York School values wherever I ended up. On the other hand, living in rural Virginia for 17 years reintroduced the natural world in a very big way. [Roth was the director of Solvent Space in Richmond and taught at Virginia Commonwealth University] Nature is simply the best. While it can never be outdone, it is an important new source for me. (Recently, I’ve been blown away by a book on caterpillars!)
My painting demands . . . :
My painting demands a stark vocabulary, but it involves play, the quotidian, and the "retinal." Abstraction that flirts with popular culture, my work aspires to be part of the community of objects that includes West African fabric patterns, Zulu baskets, Navajo blankets, early American quilts, Day of the Dead masks, bird decoys, Shaker furniture, Indonesian bamboo fish traps, Prouvé chairs, George Ohr pots, Carlo Scarpa glassware, Japanese rice boxes, Luis Barragán houses, Raf Simons fashion, Cervélo racing bicycles, contemporary Ghanaian coffins, street fashion, and monster trucks. And, oh yes, my work knows it can’t escape the community of all the paintings and artworks that ever existed—a thought that can drive one to distraction.
My painting is . . . :
Cool with style, the bad kind, like in fashion, trends, and stylin’. Or, in the words of others:
“Style and structure are the essence of a book; great ideas are hogwash.”
– Vladimir Nabokov
“Style is a simple way of saying complicated things.”
– Jean Cocteau
“Style, neurologically, is the deepest part of one’s being.”
– Oliver Sacks
My work has . . . :
My work has more in common with a Modernist chair than a Baroque painting.
I like to imagine that I am no different than the early humans who scratched geometric zigzag patterns into mollusk shells 500,000 years ago.
Though I love form and structure in painting, I don’t consider myself a modernist strictly concerned with the purity of form. I feel naturally aligned with more playful postmodern attitudes. Form, yes. Formalism, no.
I gave up painting for collecting in 1993 because I expected too much of painting. Painting could never live up to what I needed it to be. At that time, I decided to steer far from painting, and instead study and learn from the world, the endlessly amazing world, through making collections. Anthropology teaches us that all activities and artifacts express a culture, not just the “highest.” Quotidian customs and rituals are as significant as exalted religious ceremonies. I love such things as custom cars, fashion, and the culinary arts, but in 1993 was embarrassed by the pretentiousness of my own culture—painting. It wasn’t until I could see painting as just another subculture, not as the culture, not as high culture, that I could re-enter it with full enthusiasm and without cynicism.
Now I feel free to engage with painting, with its complexity and contradictions. Doubt and certainty, playful engagement and tedium, breakthroughs and deadlock all coexist in the studio (as in life) and contribute to making simple gestures rich carriers. I can’t imagine a serious painter today who doesn’t have a love/hate relationship with painting. I believe, the poet James Dickey wrote, “Love-hate is stronger than either love or hate.”
Over the years I have vacillated between the force fields of Mondrian and Duchamp, sometime closer to one, sometime closer to the other. Now I want to be fearlessly retinal!
M.F.A. Tyler School of Art of Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, painting major
B.F.A. The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York, New York, painting major
2015 Op Infinitum: “The Responsive Eye” Fifty Years After, Part I, Part II, American Op Art in the 60’s, David Richard Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
2010 The Suburban, solo exhibition, Oak Park, IL
Pentimenti Gallery, "Superimpose," three-person exhibition, Philadelphia, PA,
Reynolds Gallery, "Perimeter Check," solo exhibition, Richmond, VA
SNO, Contemporary Art Projects, solo exhibition in SNO 54, Sydney, Australia
Triple Candie, "Painting, Smoking, Eating," a Case Room project, New York, NY
Frederieke Taylor Gallery, "Color as Structure," curated by Julie Langsam, four-person exhibition in the
Viewing Room, New York, NY
Rocket Gallery, "Book A Table," group exhibition of tables and artists’ books, London, U.K.. Book A Table is an
affiliate exhibition of the London Design Festival.
ParisCONCRET, "Personal Space," 3-person exhibition, Paris, France
2008 Rocket Gallery, "Merger: New Minimal Painting in Dialogue With Contemporary Furniture Design," group
exhibition, London, U.K.
PULSE New York Contemporary Art Fair, Artware Editions, Group Exhibition
Reed Gallery, University of Cincinnati, “Weight of the World,” group exhibition
2007 Reynolds Gallery, one-person exhibition, exhibition essay by Stephen Westfall, Richmond, VA
Lamar Dodd School of Art Main Gallery, University of Georgia, "Cowboy Magic," one-person exhibition,
exhibition essay by Saul Ostrow
McCaig Welles and Rosenthal Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, “Wide Open,” group exhibition
McDonough Museum of Art. group exhibition, “Modeling the Photographic: The End(s) of Photography”,
curated by Saul Ostrow, Youngstown, Ohio
2006 Lab Gallery, three-person exhibition with Siemon Allen and Royce Howes, “Chronicle,” New York, NY
University of Cincinnati, group exhibition, “Bad Drawing,” Mark Harris – curator
2003 Reynolds Gallery, one-person exhibition, Richmond, VA
School of Visual Arts Gallery, New York, “Americana,”
2002 Virginia Museum of Fine Art, “Grief: A Collection,” one-person exhibition
2001 Trans Hudson Gallery, New York, one-person exhibition in the project room
1999 Trans Hudson Gallery, New York, group exhibition
30 Paris Street, London, “The Manchurian Candidate,” group exhibition, collaboration with Carmel Buckley,
curated by Ciara Ennis and David Goldenberg,
1998 Shillam + Smith, London, U.K., “Form(s): A Collection,” one-person exhibition
Nexus Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta. Installation
California Museum of Photography, University of California, Riverside. one-person exhibition
1996 Nexus Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta, "Obsession" group exhibition
1995 TZ’Art & Co., New York, Testwall installation
Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, Japan, “The Language of Place,” group exhibition curated by Sarah Rogers
(Wexner Center, Director of Exhibitions)
1993 SPACES Gallery , Cleveland, “Form Out of Context,” four-person exhibition
1992 “American Pluralism” group exhibition curated by Terry Barrett. Traveled to Antwerp, Belgium; London,
England; Glasgow, Scotland; Oslo, Norway; Helsinki, Finland; Budapest, Hungary; Dresden, Germany
1991 Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, “Ohio Selections X,” group exhibition
Feigen, Inc., Chicago, one-person exhibition
Chicago International Art Exposition, group exhibition
Feigen, Inc., Chicago, group exhibition
Bess Cutler Gallery, New York, NY, group exhibition - "The New Eccentricity: Sculpture," curated
by Frederieke Taylor
Penine Hart Gallery, New York, NY, group exhibition - "Painting Between the Paradigms Part IV: A Category of
Objects as Yet Unnamed," curated by Saul Ostrow
1990 Toni Birckhead Gallery, Cincinnati, Ohio, one-person exhibition
1989 The Machine Shop Gallery at the Emery Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, group exhibition
1988 Dart Gallery, Chicago, Illinois, "Formal," group exhibition
The Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, "Biennial II Exhibition
This exhibition also traveled to
The Riffe Gallery, Columbus, Ohio, March 1989
The Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, Ohio, June 1989
1987 Tangeman Fine Arts Gallery, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, "Directly on the Wall,"
1986 Toni Birckhead Gallery, Cincinnati, Ohio, group exhibition
1985 A.R.C. Raw Space, Chicago, Illinois, one-person exhibition.
Monroe Collection, Richmond, Virginia
Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio
Akron Art Institute, Akron, Ohio
Des Moines Register and Tribune Collection, Des Moines, Iowa
The Barron Collection, Detroit, Michigan
The Chase Manhattan Bank Collection, New York, New York
Marine Midland Trust Company of Western New York, Buffalo, New York
New York University Art Collection, New York, New York
First National City Bank Collection, New York, New York
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Grants and Awards:
National Endowment for the Arts, Visual Artists Fellowship, Painting, 1991.
Ohio Arts Council, Individual Artists Fellowship,Visual Arts, 1990.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship in Painting, 2008–09.