HangarBicocca, Milan’s 12,000 square meter former industrial space turned gallery, is the perfect place for Björn and Dieter Roth’s Islands exhibition. The huge interactive installation, curated by HangarBicocca’s Artistic Advisor Vicente Todolí (the former Director of the Tate Modern in London), interacts with the space beautifully, creating a unique environment defined by the artists. Visitors are drawn into the artwork as they walk through the several “islands” created by groupings of work: walls of paintings and prints, sculptures, an installation of repurposed materials, musical instruments, furniture, screens and household items that visitors are encouraged to interact with, including the 131 screens of Dieter Roth’s well-known video diary, the floors from the artists’ studio, and their sculptures: Zuckerturm (Sugar Tower), 1994-2013 and Selbstturm (Self Tower), 1994-2013.
The exhibition brings together a retrospective of over 100 works by Dieter Roth (1930 – 1988) and his collaborations with his son, Björn. Dieter Roth became widely celebrated for his work in the 80s, starting out as a graphic artist before delving into a diversity of mediums and forms, including sculpture, sound, painting, printing, collage, and photography. He used tools and materials such as utensils, instruments, furnishings, clothing, monitors, and biodegradable matter, often together, pushing the boundaries of all of the mediums he worked in. He put cheese and sausages, among other food, through a printing press, glued candy and baked goods to his books, and experimented with ephemeral, decomposable materials. He was also a writer, filmmaker, and musician. Björn became his assistant and then collaborator at an early age, working with him for approximately 20 years.
Visitors may recognize some of the works on view from the artists’ show last year at at the opening of Hauser and Wirth’s mammoth space in New York almost a full year ago, especially the enormous chunks of flooring from the Chelsea gallery’s former flooring when it served as The Roxy roller disco. The Roths have also created a similarly chaotic bar at the museum, calling to mind the permanent installation at Hauser and Wirth. On top of these works, the show includes a number of classic installations and structures.
The underlying principles of time and duration govern Dieter and Björn’s work particularly associations between art and lifestyle as incontrovertibly mixed. Thus the artists embrace deterioration and mutation of their work through accidents, time-degradation, evolution, and biodegradation. Their work is profoundly personal, paying homage to their homeland, Iceland, and converting their daily processes turn into performance art. The long-standing father-son collaboration has earned them the credit of being some of the most inventive and influential artist groups of their time, and continues through Björn Roth’s main collaborators, his sons, Oddur and Einar.
Islands will close on February 9th.