Made over a period of several months in 1964, Snow was a major turning point in Roth’s practice. All the material was created by the artist rather than culled from printed sources or mass media, and it is a heterogeneous mess of form and type rather than a neatly trimmed and bound volume, as in previous works.
The content is cryptic and personal, giving a glimpse inside Roth’s overflowing mind. “I photographed everything,” he said, “people and objects that were all knobbly and letterboxes and… the stuff that caught my attention… each evening I took everything I had touched that day, absolutely everything I had touched in the way of paper, regardless of whether they were drawings, sketches, photos, or simply the paper I’d used to wipe the printing plates, I spread it all out and tacked it to large boards covered with stretch fabric. And after three months’ work, I had about 2,000 things… I stapled about… 200 or 300 of these things together to make a big book.” Verbal formulas are presented like mathematical equations without solutions; references are made to Roth’s new experiments with “faints” (prints made from deinked plates); doodles and sketches are taped to printed sheets with tape, creating multilayered flaps; and there are notes and schematics for his stamp alphabet as well as a tiny still life made of wax. The artist makes references to his colleagues, including Nam June Paik (an early supporter of his work), Marcel Duchamp, and the author James Joyce—a literary touchstone for Roth, who titled Snow in reference to the author’s short story “The Dead.” In 1969 Roth designed the chairs and table for storing and displaying the work.