Fragments of Fantasy

Daniel Roth presents a world of missing parts and tainted possibilities

The final part of the installation, "Lost Arms in a Crystal World," emerges from the artist's visit to Dallas some months ago. Roth has stitched together interior architecture, photography, taxidermy and drawing in order to make another Romanticist commentary on the defilement of nature. At the center of the room is a large, square brick-enclosed passage at the top of which are two plastic horns. Scattered around the base are crystal shards and a crystal-impaled stuffed red fox. A large black-and-white photo of a frost-covered communication tower hangs on the back wall next to a large, faint drawing of architectural fragments, including a portion of a glass wall, an extruded fireplace and a tower top taken from the Dallas skyline. As a German artist, Roth's perception of Dallas is indeed that of an outsider looking in. But it is perhaps through the eyes of an outsider that we see ourselves best, for here, through crystal and brick, architectural debris and quasi-dead flesh, Roth gives form to that which is quintessentially Texan, what that other well-known Roth (Philip) has called the "indigenous American berserk."

Shooting surrealism through the prism of conceptual art, Roth's work is an exercise in abstraction newly conceived. As an installation that is largely conceptualist in nature, Zones of Dissolution veers from other moving-image showings that have been part of the Concentrations series at the DMA. While Roth's show marks a success in this ongoing series of contemporary art exhibitions, certain questions are raised. And these questions concern the nature of conceptual art tout court. Expressive though not narrative, Roth's bits and pieces make a statement that may be difficult for some to grasp. The exhibition calls for careful deliberation, if not invention on the part of the viewer. One might feel the need to fill in the gaps of meaning by referring to writings about or by the artist, as Roth's formal vocabulary is economic, to say the least. For some, this extra labor may mark a deficiency in the work. For others, it may be the very earmark of successful conceptualist practice. Ultimately, this is an ambiguous duality that perhaps all conceptual artists confront before finding the clear lines of expression that are at times more easily attained in other media, both traditional and experimental. Distinct, though, to Roth's conceptual work is his strong reliance on the imaginations of those who experience his work. "Medium" for Roth thus includes the raw stuff of making--photos, drawings, sculpture, etc. --as well as the participant's imagination. And it is because of this that Roth's conceptualist interventions succeed: because he transforms the immaterial imagination of the participant-viewer into the raw stuff of making.

Daniel Roth's "Cabrini Green Forest," 2004
Daniel Roth's "Cabrini Green Forest," 2004


is on display through April 10 at the Dallas Museum of Art. Call 214-922-1200.

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