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David Ireland



Painted wood and glass
60.5 x 40 x 15 in. (153.67 x 101.6 x 38.1 cm)
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation

Making art—like making love or buying a pair of shoes, for that matter—requires a careful balance between ego and id. On the one hand, there is deliberation, control, and an authorial “I.” On the other, there is abandon, indulgence, and the wild vicissitudes of pleasure.

In his first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, at Ruth Bloom Gallery in 1992, David Ireland carefully erected this balance only to topple it with a couple of mischievous shoves. What his off-center work suggests is that counterweights like ego/id, art/life, and sincerity/dissimulation are not opposites, but mirror reflections. What they are is the same—only different.

Ireland’s fortuitous/fated initials neatly bear this out. Reverse the letters and you get “I.D.”—identity, presence, the self; delete the periods and put the letters in lower case and you get “id”—the primitive component of the psychic apparatus, the seat of play, violence, and chance.

And so Ireland did just that, his flipped, rotated, and permutated initials forming the leitmotif of this calculatedly carnivalesque exhibition. In the center of the room, a motorized “initial machine” spun the letters “D.I.” around and around at breakneck speed, dissolving them into an abstract blur. In the piece shown here, a curio cabinet is stuffed full of pieces of wood, each obsessively branded with Ireland’s initials. In a related work, a circular cabinet filled with wood studded with the artist’s initials conjures a roulette wheel, in which risk is recast as a sure thing, and adventure guarantees nothing so much as an ego boost.

“You can’t make art by making art,” Ireland once proclaimed. This group of works suggests another dictum, both the same and different: “You can make art by unmaking art”— or at least by unmaking its recalcitrant ideologies.

Susan Kandel

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