Brian O’Doherty, Love Child of Marcel Duchamp and Clement Greenberg?

THE DAILY PIC: At Simone Subal, Brian O'Doherty dresses up Duchampian wit and wiles as attractive abstraction.

THE DAILY PIC (#1708): This is a tight detail from a big painting made by Brian O’Doherty (later know as Patrick Ireland) in 1975. It went on view Sunday when his latest solo launched at Simone Subal Gallery in New York, where it is being co-presented by the space called P!

O’Doherty was one of the very smartest thinkers of the 1960s and ‘70s – his writings about Pop art are earlier and better than almost anyone else’s and his book Inside the White Cube is legendary. His art was equally brainy. To generate the pattern in today’s Pic, O’Doherty took several of his own hairs – the arcing lines in the painting – and then twinned them with straightened lines of the same length. (See the full painting below, and click on it to zoom in.)

O’Doherty’s gesture is clearly indebted to Duchamp (compare the French master’s Standard Stoppages) but what strikes me most is how O’Doherty presents that gesture in the formal language of hard-edge abstraction, which was still quite dominant in the 1970s. It’s as though he is a member of a Duchampian fifth column, secretly committed to sullying the purity of abstract art. Or think of it as slipping a hair into Greenberg’s soup. (Courtesy P! and Simone Subal Gallery)

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