The container is a common concept in Roth’s work, offering both a means of enclosing chaos and a measure of portability for an artist who was always on the go. In 1971 Roth published Collected Works: Volume 20, a single-volume compilation comprising his entire output of books and graphics to that point—the self-determined close of a chapter. It also served as the catalogue for a major traveling exhibition of Roth’s books and graphics, which toured European cities for three years, bringing the artist a sense of accomplishment and acknowledgment.
While the show traveled, Roth worked on a new portfolio, Containers, a kind of encyclopedia of work to date, from delicate etchings and enigmatic texts to perforated postage stamps to pressings and squashings of chocolate and other sweets. He also introduced the image of a trolley, or cart, on which he imagined all the containers might be kept, serving as a virtual, mobile repository for this set of prints, the culmination of fifteen years of experimentation.