March 25, 2010  |  Artists, Collection & Exhibitions
Dieter Roth’s Hat

Dieter Roth. Hat. 1965. Screenprint over offset. Publisher and printer: the artist, New Haven. Edition: approx. 20 unique variants. The Museum of Modern Art. The Print Associates Fund, 2009. © 2010 Estate of Dieter Roth

Dieter Roth was a singularly important figure in postwar European art—an iconoclast, really—whose wide-ranging practice, including artist’s books, prints, drawings, sculpture, assemblages, sound recordings, film, music, and poetry, reverberated for decades to come. He was associated with kinetic art, Fluxus, Conceptual art, and concrete poetry, often blurring the boundaries between mediums and movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

As a printmaker, he totally pushed the envelope. He sent slices of greasy sausage and cheese through the printing press, stuck strips of licorice onto etchings, glued croissants onto the covers of the books he designed. He also worked with more traditional techniques like screenprint and etching, sometimes combining them to play with different experimental effects.

In fact, this rare work, Hat, marks the first time Roth combined different printing techniques to produce a series of unique but related images. Printed by the artist when he was teaching in the Architecture Department at Yale University, it superimposes a screenprinted image of a hat on an offset reproduction of a postcard showing a valley in Iceland. The postcard became an important artistic vehicle for Roth when he moved to Iceland in 1957 (he would live there on and off until 1998) and began an extensive written correspondence with friends and colleagues. While Hat is among the earliest examples of Roth’s integration of postcards into his art making, they would continue to make appearances in works like the celebrated series 6 Piccadillies, derived from a tourist postcard of London’s Piccadilly Circus.