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When I Grow Up I Want to Be Just Like Jasper Johns -
drawings from the 1960s by Jack Roth    30. Apr - 4. Jun 2011


Opening Reception: Saturday, April 30, 6-9PM

The quirky title for this exhibition comes from a whole series of quirky titles given by the artist Jack Roth (1927-2004) to a group of drawings he created in the early 1960s. Beyond his career as an artist and Guggenheim Fellow, Roth was also a bespectacled, pipe smoking, award winning University professor in advanced mathematics. The incongruity may puzzle, but his wife Rachel, when asked if Jack was kinky, thoughtfully answered: “A little.”

Rodney Jack Roth came of age as an abstract painter in the late 1940s in San Francisco where he studied at the School of Fine Arts. There he worked with Rothko, Still, Diebenkorn, Park and Bischoff. In 1953 he landed in New York where he pursued his dual interests of painting and studies in advanced mathematics. From 1958 to 1965 the Roths lived in the South while Jack finished his PhD., moving first to Durham, North Carolina then to Lexington, Kentucky and finally to Tampa, Florida where he taught at the University of South Florida. Cramped living spaces and frequent moves made it hard for him to paint so he devoted most of his efforts to drawing. The core of this exhibition comes from that body of work.

In 1963 Roth flew to New York with a roll of drawings under his arm and an appointment to see Dorothy Miller and William Lieberman at the Museum of Modern Art. The museum purchased a large, ink work titled Where Are They Now, which was then exhibited in the inaugural exhibition of the Paul J. Sachs Gallery, 60 Modern Drawings: Recent Acquisitions. Lieberman then recommended Roth to Art in America magazine, which named him New Talent Graphic Artist of 1963. This was followed by inclusion in a traveling museum exhibition, Graphics 63, organized by the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Kentucky.

The ink drawings, watercolors and collages from this period combine Roth’s awareness of Pop Art and wry humor with curiosity about the worlds of fashion, art and culture. He clearly enjoys poking his finger in the eye of high society. He loved fashion magazines and mined them for content and inspiration. Not only was Jack a little kinky, he could really draw.

These works are richly worked with finesse, skilled draftsmanship and elements of collage. Roth presents the viewer with a maze of tangled line work and disjointed text that merge to create a magical environment of endless fascination.

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