Past Collection Highlight - Brian O'Doherty

Patrick Ireland Promenade acrylic paint and ropeBoth title and structure of Brian O'Doherty's installation for the KIA lobby command the viewer to promenade-to step slowly and purposefully forward, then side-to-side. Three ropes are hung horizontally to bracket the space in front of each painted rectangle. Approaching the work from a frontal perspective rewards the viewer with the illusion of the rope lines rising and perfectly outlining each corresponding, diminishing rectangle, in succession. Walking from side to side provides a view of the ropes that restores dimension to the minimalist, aerial monument.

For O'Doherty, Promenade references the power of ancient monuments, like ziggurats and labyrinths, to direct an individual's movement and experience of a space. In his book, Inside the White Cube (1976), he argues that our experience of a painting or sculpture is similarly directed by the "white cube" architecture common to museum galleries today. His numerous "rope drawings," including Promenade, wrest control from the "cube" and manipulate the viewer's movement directly.

Patrick Ireland Promenade ink on paperO'Doherty draws our attention to the performative aspect of viewing, through transitory works of art that become meaningful when the viewer moves through time and space. In a 1998 letter prior to installation, O'Doherty wrote, "There is, I hope, a sense of ascension, of (conceptually, at least) climbing a mountain, as it were, while experiencing the mysterious but undeniable satisfaction of things clicking into place (which they rarely do in life) sequentially." Promenade is a rare extant example of this series of largely temporary installations which so perfectly incorporated O'Doherty's contributions as a visual and conceptual artist.

The detailed drawing of the work was rendered in 2002, four years after O'Doherty installed Promenade. Work on ceiling panels in 2000 necessitated disassembly of the ropes. KIA staff members were able to rehang the ropes precisely as before, but requested a detailed drawing from the artist as a guide and precaution for the future.

Karla Niehus
Associate Curator of Exhibitions