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/ Exhibitions / Earthbound/Ethereal Nexus: John Roth

Earthbound/Ethereal Nexus: John Roth

September 2, 2016 – October 23, 2016(This exhibition has passed.)

John Roth is a sculptor who constructs his ideas, dreams, memories and fears into complex dioramas and anthropomorphized forms. His knowledge of industrial design, wood-working and model-making allows Roth to give voice to his rich inner life, referencing movement and travel both in his personal experience, and the communities in which he has lived. The socio-political nature of the work references the shared experience that the entire world is facing as the cost of travel and transportation become clear.

Earthbound /Ethereal Nexus: John Roth in Gallery A.

Earthbound /Ethereal Nexus: John Roth in Gallery A.

Artist statement

After the invasion of Iraq, and my move to Norfolk, Virginia — a major military hub — my sculpture increasingly has been informed by thoughts about resources, commodities and consumption and their relationship to politics, world order and the natural environment.

My sculpture/furniture hybrids evolved into a series I call “Speculative Naval Architecture.” Absurd ship models reflect my visceral response to the anthropomorphic aspects of machinery, vehicles, and buildings and serve as metaphors for my reflections upon conveyance and modes of communication. Consideration of that nexus between instinct and intellect, and autobiographical events such as the death of my father and the birth of my daughter, inspired individual pieces. Recent work explores the folly of material acquisition and accumulation, particularly brought home to me during my move. However, it was never my intention to create works that read as personal narrative. Insofar as they are reflective of a world-view, that view also is subjected to the prism of dream and fantasy. My use of the kind of decorative and functional details that are found on Industrial Age factories and mines, public utility buildings, machines and, particularly, marine vessels has the effect of making the fanciful somehow familiar, calling into question considerations of past and future when contemplating the present.

– John Roth


The whimsical anthropomorphic forms on tiny wheels that John Roth creates out of sheet metal and machined aluminum convey a strange alternate world where child’s play is serious business in the best tradition of literary fantasy (think The Chronicles of Narnia or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) with dragons and rabbits, seahorses and caterpillars, odd ship-like vessels and creatures covered with scales. The forms are familiar—and repulsive. It’s hard to resist their magnetic attraction. Exactly what are these artist’s “toys” mean to convey? Roth titles many of his pieces with the word “conveyance,” playing on the word’s multiple meanings: the act of taking or carrying someone or something from one place to another; something that carries people or things from one place to another; the act of making something known to someone (Merriam-Webster).

– Mary Anne Redding

About the artist

John Roth is an Associate Professor in Sculpture at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He received his Master’s of Fine Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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