Institutional Work, Institutional Critique - Brian O’Doherty / Patrick Ireland
Institutional Work, Institutional Critique Brian O’Doherty / Patrick Ireland
This winter the Van Abbemuseum will present a small retrospective exhibition of the work of artist and writer Brian O’Doherty, also known under the pseudonym Patrick Ireland. The exhibition will show artworks and publications: evidence of a coherent but multi-disciplinary practice.
O’Doherty has been influential in establishing one of the most frequently used metaphors to describe the modern exhibition space: the ‘White Cube’. He noted that ‘a gallery is constructed along laws as rigorous as those for building a medieval church, [in which] the presence of the odd piece of furniture, your own body, seems superfluous, an intrusion’ (1976). In his writings, O’Doherty comments on and sharply analyses the sometimes strange logic of the gallery space. He does so in critical, philosophical and humorous ways: an artist’s finely tuned prose.
Brian O’Doherty is a visual artist working in several disciplinary contexts: as programme director of the National Endowment for the Arts, leading theorist of institutional critique (Inside the White Cube), art critic (he was editor of Art in America), TV presenter, medical doctor and literary writer. He is also well-known for his box-shaped journal edition Aspen 5+6 (1967), and his pseudonym, Patrick Ireland, chosen 1972 as activist gesture to protest against the killing of civil rights marchers in his home, Ireland.
He anticipated many now current concerns, especially art writing and art(istic) research. His thinking takes a systemic perspective and embraces the paradox. It can be recognized in the single-minded pursuit of both institutional work and institutional critique, (art)work both inside and outside the white cube, and reflections in and on word and image. He sits in the most fruitful place: between all the stools – and he has grappled with what it may mean when those working experimentally in and with art find themselves there.
The exhibition is curated by Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History and Academic Director, Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture, University of Amsterdam. Her books include: Brian O’Doherty/Patrick Ireland: Word, Image and Institutional Critique (ed., Valiz 2017), Post-War Germany and ‘Objective Chance’: W.G. Sebald, Joseph Beuys and Tacita Dean (Steidl 2011), Beuysian Legacies in Ireland and Beyond: Art, Culture and Politics (co-ed., LIT 2011), Joyce in Art (Lilliput 2004), and James Joyce als Inspirationsquelle für Joseph Beuys (Olms 2001). She has curated numerous exhibitions.