Never Odd Or Even
Never Odd Or Even

Never Odd Or Even

Kay Rosen (American, 1949-)

Currently on View in T21
Image Licensing

Never Odd Or Even is a palindromic phrase which reads the same way in both directions. It practically spelled itself out for me magically, letter by letter, in a moment of inspiration, but I thought that surely someone must have already thought of it. When I looked it up in a list of palindromes, I found that they had. Still, I don’t think its origination is the important thing. Rather its application as a two-way message in a two-way passage is what impresses me, especially as it relates to the message of odd and even. The same letters group and regroup themselves into words of odd or even numbers of letters, depending on one’s direction of travel. The work suggests that meaning and interpretation are relative and are a function of one’s position and orientation in the world. Things are never all one thing or all the other all the time, but unstable and conditional constructs that are subject to change. In this regard the message and the passage smoothly work together to reinforce each other.

The passageway presents a unique architectural opportunity as the setting for a moving viewing and reading experience, rather than as a static one in which the viewer normally stops before an artwork to contemplate it. Here the walls function like a giant page and the viewers’ bodies function like eyes scanning a page as they proceed through the tunnel. The way we read, from left to right, requires that as the viewer enters the tunnel from the garage, the wall on the left will carry the message forward, the letters counted off and paced one by one, in rhythm with their steps. Whereas the opposite wall of text will read forward as one leaves the museum. Conversely, the respective opposite walls read backwards, while containing the exact same sequence of letters, only spaced differently.

I rejected a system of two alternating negative and positive colors, representing odd and even, in favor of a system of three alternating colors which underscores the anti-odd and -even message of “never odd or even,” and in which each letter is “assigned” a color and a color field which it maintains throughout the palindromic event. This more complex and fluid arrangement seemed to be consistent with the message that the possibilities for enumeration and identification range beyond conventional numerical and philosophical systems.

—Kay Rosen

Commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2004

Object Information

Kay Rosen (American, 1949-)
creation date
March 2005
latex paint on gypsum board
2 walls, each 17 panels, L: 1,344 in. (or 112 ft.) per wall
94-1/4 x 79 x 3/4 in. each panel
accession number
credit line
Gift of Michelle and Perry Griffith, Sarah C. Barney, The Efroymson Fund of Central Indiana Community Foundation, Susan and Richard F. Jacobs and Anna S. and James P. White, with additional gifts from members of the Contemporary Art Society
© Kay Rosen, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Non-Exclusive Licensee
Contemporary Art

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