In the late 1960s, Rita Donagh, wife of Roth’s longtime friend and collaborator Richard Hamilton, gave the artist a postcard of London’s famous Piccadilly Circus. This unremarkable image is the basis for one of the artist’s best-known series of artworks, 6 Piccadillies. Roth enlarged and reproduced the image as a doublesided photolithograph, then transformed it through various interventions: overprinting it in Day-Glo colors, sub-merging it in a fog of translucent white, and almost completely erasing it with a layer of iron filings. The portfolio cover resembles a suitcase, an item that had a constant presence in Roth’s itinerant life. 96 Piccadillies, a later volume, reproduces the artist’s paintings on postcards picturing the same landmark; the reproductions themselves can be separated and sent as postcards.
Gallery label from Wait, Later This Will Be Nothing: Editions by Dieter Roth, February 17–June 24, 2013.
Dieter Roth was a singularly creative and reclusive figure who worked as a sculptor, painter, printmaker, book artist, filmmaker, and poet. He continually challenged conventions as his work evolved through several styles encompassing Op, Pop, Kinetic, Fluxus, and Conceptual art movements. The inventive use of unusual materials, such as food, earth, and excrement, often characterized his work, and the concepts of process and change exemplified by his decomposing elements—from chocolate to mayonnaise—became the central motifs of his art.
Roth began printmaking as a teenager and quickly learned to manipulate and layer the techniques in unconventional ways. His extremely prolific body of work numbers more than five hundred print projects encompassing nearly every medium, all of which he pushed to their virtual limits. His experimentation included altering the printing sequence of plates and colors or "pressing" and "squashing" organic materials onto his surfaces, creating numerous unique variations. He also completed more than one hundred artist's books, many of which allow for viewer interaction. Roth collaborated with a wide gamut of printers but developed several longstanding intensive relationships with Hartmut Kaminski in Düsseldorf, Karl Schulz in Braunschweig, and Petersburg Press in London, each resulting in an extended body of work.
The postcard became an important artistic vehicle for Roth when he moved to Iceland in 1957 and began his extensive correspondence with friends and colleagues abroad. In the early 1960s he discovered a friend's collection illustrating Piccadilly Circus, which inspired a series of prints and books culminating in the portfolio 6 Piccadillies. He enlarged and photolithographed one of the postcards on both sides of heavy paper boards. He then screenprinted on top of each in a dazzling array of colors and patterns that alternately intensify and camouflage this scene of teeming humanity and bustling urban life.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Wendy Weitman, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 179.