This inertia, though, is not shared by Solo Scenes. Roth's final artwork, the 128-monitor video installation documenting the artist's last year of life before passing from alcoholism—it includes footage of him sleeping, working, and sitting on the toilet—provides a dose of real pathos that hits home, albeit diffusely. It remains the exhibition's most memorable work, even if, contrary to the gallery literature, it bears zero resemblance to Rembrandt's penetrating, life-affirming self-portraits.

Carrying the whiff of the mortuary: Dieter and Björn Roth's Large Table Ruin.
Grosse Tischruine (Large Table Ruin) (with Björn Roth & Eggert Einarsson)/© Dieter Roth Estate/Courtesy Hauser & Wirth
Carrying the whiff of the mortuary: Dieter and Björn Roth's Large Table Ruin.

Details

'Dieter Roth. Björn Roth'
Hauser & Wirth511 West 18th Street
212-790-3900, hauserwirth.com
Through April 13

Roth made few distinctions when it came to his own compulsive activity: His life was his art, and as such, it propounded a Beckett-like determination to make a big abstract point about destruction—namely, that it's just as good as creation. Roth's work boils down to that one gnomic realization. And in a fancy showroom art environment like ours, the observation is not without its merits. Unfortunately, his work as carried on today by his family and his ambitious dealers hits a nearly uniformly sour note. In the end, there's not much to look at, really—except a very dirty kitchen sink.

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