Cowboy Magic, a solo exhibition by Richard Roth, is on display at the Lamar Dodd School of Art Main Gallery until Oct. 5. With this exhibition, Roth marks his official return to painting following more than 10 years spent creating collections of the “ready-made” in contemporary material culture—an art-as-critique practice broaching the documentary aspects of cultural studies.
With Cowboy Magic, Roth exhibits the first series of abstract paintings created after his sabbatical from the studio—a period of time during which he broke away from the conventional ways of the studio artist and explored conceptually-motivated projects. He was influenced by Claes Oldenburg, Gerhard Richter and Donald Lipski—artists who considered collections-as-art within their own careers. Realizing that “paintings are cunning artifacts that can alter perception and create new narratives,” Roth said, he resists the standardized, and at times repetitive, narratives of some contemporary art, asserting that abstract art—and these paintings in particular—requires not merely “unpacking,” but engagement by audiences to be entirely read, an approach that urges “painting” as an “event” for viewers. From this position, Roth’s newest body of work emerges.
Diminutive in stature and of a minimal—but colorful—vocabulary, these new works are informed by the cultural and art historical research the artist has conducted into the artistic and innovative act of collection across cultures and eras. As critic Saul Ostrow writes, “Roth has spent a significant part of his professional life trying to escape the gravity of paint on canvas and has now been pulled back into its orbit.”
The works resonate with references to Pop art and are almost illusory or deceptive in their simplicity. Form and opticality are chosen here, over a more painterly process, and culturally these works are aligned with a diverse range of forms—from package and product design to nature and modernist art. The artist is, as he says, “now making objects for my own ideal collection.”
Roth received an MFA from temple University’s Tyler School of Art and a BFA from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. In 1991, he was the recipient of a Visual Artists Fellowship in Painting from the National Endowment for the Arts. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. He is the co-editor of the book Beauty is Nowhere: Ethical Issues in Art and Design and co-author of Color Basics. He is currently chairperson of the painting and printmaking department at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Located in the Visual Arts Building on Jackson Street, the art school’s Main Gallery is open weekdays from 9 a.m.–5 p.m.