A prolific artist in many mediums, Roth may have made his most important, lasting, and influential contributions in the area of prints, books, and multiples. Challenging traditional notions about what art can be and blurring the boundaries between mediums, he forged innovative approaches to techniques, formats, and materials: he sent slices of greasy sausage and cheese through the printing press, stuck strips of licorice onto etchings, and glued croissants onto the covers of his book works.
Roth’s experiments with books include pages that can be shuffled and reordered, miniature volumes, and his most radical effort, his Literature Sausages, each of which consists of a sausage made in accordance with a traditional recipe calling for ingredients such as salt, garlic, and fennel, but with one critical substitution: a minced printed publication in place of meat. The mixture was stuffed into a sausage casing, and the resulting object playfully proposes to viewers and readers another means by which information may be ingested and digested. Each Literature Sausage (Literaturwurst in German) is unique—different in shape and size and containing a different book, magazine, or newspaper. This example was made from a German edition of US senator Robert F. Kennedy’s 1967 volume of essays To Seek a Newer World. Its organic contents are bound to rot and molder over time, embodying the artist’s embrace of metamorphosis and decomposition.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Between 1961 and 1970 Roth created about fifty "literature sausages." To make each sausage Roth followed a traditional recipe, but with one crucial twist: where the recipe called for ground pork, veal, or beef, he substituted a ground-up book or magazine. Roth mixed the ground-up pages with fat, gelatin, water, and spices before stuffing them into sausage casings. The source materials include work by authors and periodicals that the artist either envied or despised; they run the gamut from lowbrow illustrated tabloids to well-regarded contemporary German novels to the works of Karl Marx and the influential nineteenth-century philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Roth turned literature into a metaphorical object for intellectual consumption and physical subsistence.
Gallery label from From the Collection: 1960-69, March 26, 2016 - March 12, 2017.