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1950 to 1959 Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland

1950

Roth is given private lessons in lithography by Eugen Jordi in Kehrsatz and together with Bernhard Luginbühl attends Jordi’s class in typography at the trade school in Bern. Unable to find a position as a graphic artist after completing his apprenticeship, Roth begins to work as a visual artist. Roth’s first attempt to refuse military service fails.

1951

The artist earns his living with casual labour on construction sites. He paints further watercolours. Roth gets acquainted with Marcel Wyss and Eugen Gomringer. Jointly they establish the periodical spirale of which nine issues are published between 1953 and 1964.

1952

Cleaning of the Jesuit Church in Solothurn. In a garage Roth creates the large-format work that is later called Solothurner Wandbild (Solothurn Wall Painting), which since 1995 is housed at the art museum in Solothurn. He produces the unique print Ex libris Franz. He is exempted from military service for health reasons and dismissed from the army.

1953

Bern
Roth continues to earn his living with odd jobs and decorations.
He produces “exhibition prints.” The first issue of spirale is published. Roth becomes acquainted with Daniel Spoerri, Claus Bremer, and Peter Althaus.

1954

Roth creates his first baked sculpture, a spiral made of bread dough, for a competition of the Graphic Artists’ Association. For his decoration of the shop window of a bakery in the old part of Bern he is awarded 4th prize. First experiments with op art, complementary contrasts, reflected and deflected light. Roth organizes the open air sculpture exhibition Plastik im Freien in Biel. For Claus Bremer’s son he designs the Kinderbuch (Children’s Book) with perforated pages and geometrical structures (published in 1957). First film: licht und schatten auf der treppe am bubenbergrain (light and shadow on the steps at bubenbergrain). Together with Rolf Iseli, Peter Meier, and Walter Vögeli Roth takes over Gallery 33 in Bern. The gallery features a permanent exhibition of the group. Roth meets the Copenhagen textile manufacturer Percy von Halling-Koch who shows great interest in the artist’s constructivist works and asks him to conceive designs for fabrics and curtains.
Roth receives the Kiefer-Hablitzel Foundation’s award for painting in Bern.

1955

Copenhagen
Produces “graphic works for everyday use.” Percy von Halling-Koch invites Roth to Copenhagen, where he is employed at the firm Unika-Vaev to design textiles.

1956

Copenhagen
Roth continues designing textiles. He writes ideograms(poems influenced by concrete poetry) that are published in 1959.
Experiments with films in Super 8 format: The film Aus dem Rückfenster der Straßenbahn (Out of the Rear Window of a Tram) shows a view from a tram onto the tracks filmed with a camera rotating around the horizontal. Another film bears the title Im Fussballstadion mit an einer Schnur um den Kopf geschwungener Kamera (In a Football Stadium Swinging the Camera With a Piece of String Around the Head). In his third film project the artist overpaints the film material in black and additionally perforates it with punch pliers. When playing back the film, particles of colour are constantly released, a process that creates the effect of lightning flashes, which is intensified through the perforation. Roth subsequently throws the films away. He becomes acquainted with Gerhard Rühm. Roth is awarded the gold medal for his textile designs at a fair in San Francisco.

1957

Reykjavík
February: Roth moves to Rekjavík to take up residence with Sigri∂ur Björnsdóttir, an Icelandic student he had met while working for Unika-Vaev; they get married. Roth’s search for employment is unsuccessful. The Icelandic Graphic Artists’ Association rejects his admission. The financial situation is difficult; Roth’s wife supports the family with drawing lessons. Roth begins to design jewellery, which a local goldsmith displays in his shop window. He produces coloured drawings with pen and compasses and silk-screen prints. Together with Einar Bragi he founds the publishing company forlag ed. Books by both authors are published. Roth’s son Karl is born.

1958

Roth works temporarily at the architect’s office of Gudmund Kirstinsson. He creates the Schlitzbücher (books with slots), published in 1959. Contributions for material 1 (published in 1959) and neue forum. December: At the invitation of the architect Newcomb Montgomery Roth travels to Philadelphia to present himself as a teacher at the School of Arts. The plan, however, does not succeed.

1959

New York
At Yale University Roth holds a four-day lectureship as Visiting Critic and meets Josef Albers. Roth finds work as a graphic designer at the Geigy Corporation in New York. He produces the op art books bok 2 und bok 4 (published in 1960-61). He meets Norman Ives. May: Roth returns to Reykjavík. He creates kinetic pictures (puzzles), geometric rubber-stamp pictures and kinetic sculptures. He publishes some of his own pictorial works and a book by Sigri∂ur Björnsdóttir.

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