New York

Patrick Ireland

Chase Manhattan Plaza

With this three-dimensional rope drawing, Patrick Ireland further enunciated certain of the conditions of his previous projects in this genre while contradicting others. Though the self-consciousness and physical self-awareness he invites were stressed perhaps more than before, the earlier ambiguity set up between viewer and object(s) was on this occasion all but eliminated.

The strings themselves were still stretched and suspended by only semi-visible supports, giving them a feeling of being airborne. The viewer’s experience, however, used to be analogous to this metaphor for freedom; earlier work was characterized by a nearly unlimited choice of possible points of view, in other words by no “point of view” at all. In political or historical terms (specific political inferences can be made when an artist says he will keep his nom de string until British troops leave Northern Ireland), this permissive framework can be translated to mean a view of nonlinear progression. But with this most recent piece, Ireland tightened the reins on the viewer, who was pointed directly to a director’s chair at rear center of the room.

In front of the chair the strings formed a diagonal, three-dimensional fretted scrim which separated one from, and placed one before, a medium-sized rectangular wall drawing realized in a kind of flecked grisaille. Only from a seated position in the chair was it possible to see the wall drawing uninterrupted by lines of string. Behind the chair (and the viewer’s head), the room’s white back wall had been covered—stippled, as with a schoolroom blackboard eraser—with reddish tint. The installation thus performed the elementary schema of the camera obscura, or of the projection room: the pseudo-mechanism was already given and simply awaited the eye and consciousness of whoever should sit down.

This last movement was the only true option, and in performing it one enacted a reversal of the laws of classical perspective, becoming, ipso facto, the vanishing point. The rear wall, with its Jungian overtones, was an unconscious plane, a tabula rasa. Ireland’s strings did not in this instance display his former rhetoric of instinctual freedom, but asked the viewer to project backward and forward into the blank screens. Ireland has written that “you bump into a lot of people as you chaperone an idea.” The people this time were quite literally sitting targets, and the targets, one supposes, were to bump into themselves or, at a certain level of existence, to cease to be: to vanish.

Lisa Liebmann