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 David Ireland  (1930 - 2009)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: sculptor-funk castings, installation, found objects

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Ad Code: 3
David Ireland
Paint on teapot
Silver platter 9 1/2” x 15 1/2” x 15 1/2”

Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following obituary is from the Los Angeles Times, May 30.2009

"David Ireland dies at 78; Bay Area conceptual artist
Ireland was best known for transforming a decrepit 1886 Victorian house in San Francisco's Mission District into a home that was also a work of art."
By Suzanne Muchnic

David Ireland, a conceptual artist whose quiet embrace of life-as-art made him a beloved guru in the Bay Area and a highly admired freethinker in international art circles, has died. He was 78.

Ireland, who had been in failing health over the last few years, died Monday of pneumonia at the Davies Campus of the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, his sister, Judy Ireland, said.

Best known for transforming a decrepit 1886 Victorian house in San Francisco's Mission District into a home that was also a work of art, Ireland saw ordinary things around him as extraordinary raw materials. After buying the 500 Capp Street building in 1975, he embarked on a renovation that became a sort of excavation of the structure's history.

As he peeled back layers of materials, he exposed information about former inhabitants and made collections of remnants, sometimes turning old woodwork and scraps of wallpaper into artworks. Periodic "open houses" allowed visitors to follow his progress and participate in an experience that got to the core of Ireland's philosophy of art.

"Whether San Francisco artist David Ireland qualifies as a Zen master I cannot say, but certainly he's a master of Zen art," Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight wrote in a review of his work in 2005. "He doesn't make zenga -- the word the Japanese use to describe bold calligraphy, traditional paintings of monks and other staples of this age-old Asian repertoire. Instead he makes Conceptual art, and his idiom is fully Western and completely Modern. But his work seeks to produce in the viewer what can only be called an awakening.  Nothing is more Zen than that."

Among works that elicited many critics' comments were "dumbballs," spheres of concrete made by tossing a lump of wet concrete back and forth, from one hand to another, hour after hour.

The finished sculptures offered little to look at, Knight wrote. But he deemed them "theoretically provocative" works that "stress an acute awareness of the slow transformation of materials from one state to another."

Born in Bellingham, Wash., on Aug. 25, 1930, Ireland was the third of four children and the only son of Martha and David Kenneth Ireland. He majored in art and mathematics during a two-year stint at Western Washington University, then transferred to the California College of Arts and Crafts (now the California College of the Arts) in Oakland, where he studied theater, industrial arts and printmaking.

He developed a strong interest in Africa in the 1950s, living and working in Johannesburg and traveling throughout South Africa. Drafted into military service, he served two years in the U.S. Army from 1956-58, then returned to his hometown. He married Joanne Westford, also a native of Bellingham, in 1961. They had two children and were divorced in 1970.

In his early years, Ireland tried many occupations, including selling insurance and leading African safaris. Finally launching his art career in his 40s, he moved to San Francisco in 1972 to attend graduate school at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he joined a circle of adventurous artists, including Tom Marioni, Terry Fox and Paul Kos.

In the late 1970s, Ireland worked on a property near his house that evolved into the Capp Street Project, an artist residency program. But in the early 1980s, he began making sculpture and installations that were shown at museums and outdoor venues. Over time, his work was exhibited in prominent institutions such as the New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Center in Washington, D.C., and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

"The Way Things Are: The Art of David Ireland," a traveling retrospective exhibition, was organized by the Oakland Museum of California in 2003. His work is represented in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Ireland's health problems forced him to leave his house in 2005, and the building's fate was uncertain for several years. Carlie Wilmans, an arts patron, recently spearheaded a campaign to save 500 Capp Street as a repository, study center and archive of the artist's work.

In addition to his sister, Ireland is survived by a son, Ian; a daughter, Shaughn Niland; and five grandchildren. A memorial gathering is being planned.

Obituary, Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2009


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
An installation and conceptual artist whose materials include fiberglass, concrete, copper, wire, dirt, talcum and and motors with belts, David Ireland is from Oakland, California.  He was born in Bellingham, Washington.

On the occasion of his Oakland Museum exhibition titled "The Art of David Ireland: The Way Things Are" , (November 22, 2003-March 14, 2004) Ireland said: "Ideally my work has a visual presence that makes it seem like part of a usual, everyday situation. . .. I like the feeling that nothing's been designed, that you can't tell where the art stops and starts." His goal is to "activate space" and create relationships among the works he chooses to occupy that space.

The exhibition included a video program featuring Ireland and his home, described by one writer as an "environmental-sculpture-in-progresss".  In fact, one of the artworks for which he is best known is his own home, a run-down Victorian house when he purchased it, and located at 500 Capp Street.  He worked on the remodeling for three years, and video-taped as artistic performance some of the activities including the repair of the sidewalk in front of the place.  The house now features his sculptures made of "non-art" materials such as old brooms, bent wire, cement and wet paper.

Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown said of Ireland's work, "David Ireland is one of this country's most influential conceptual artists, an artist of the enigmatic commonplace whose provocative, idiosyncratic art is like a Zen Koan.  He makes us see that art is all around us and we need only to stop and look.''

Ireland earned a bachelor's degree in industrial design and print making from Oakland's California College of Arts and Crafts in 1953, and in the early 1970s, he studied plastics technology and print making at Laney College.  In 1974, he received a master of fine arts degree in print making from the San Francisco Art Institute.

"He did not fully commit himself to art until he was in his early 40s, after traveling extensively around the world and working as an architectural draftsman, carpenter, designer, businessman and African safari guide.  The Oakland Museum exhibition looks at how these early life experiences have been influential, resulting, for example, in the reference to elephants in his works, the claiming of architecture as art, and the open-ended sense of exploration that is the foundation for his work."

His work has been exhibited in over 40 solo exhibitions

In 2008, Bay Area collector Carlie Wilmans purchased the Victorian style home of David Ireland, who, for health reasons had to move out of the structure, which had been built in 1886.  Administered by a preservation foundation of Wilmans, the house will become a museum, open to the public for tours.


The website of the Oakland Museum

"Front Page",  Art in America, October 2008, p. 31

Biography from Gallery Paule Anglim:
David Ireland was one of the West Coast's most important conceptual and installation artists.  “500 Capp Street”, his famous house and studio has become a world-recognized example of an artist transforming architecture into fine art.  In 2003 the Oakland Museum presented a touring retrospective exhibition of his work featuring about 80 works created between 1972 and 2002: large-scale installations, sculptural objects and his paintings, drawings and painted photographs.

1972-74 M.F.A., San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California
1972-74 Laney College, Oakland, California (plastics technology and printmaking)
1950-53 B.A.A., California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, California (industrial design)
1948-50 Western Washington State University, Bellingham, Washington

Selected Solo Exhibitions:
2008  “David Ireland: Sculptures, Paintings, Drawings,” Karsten Schubert Gallery, London, U.K.
2006  Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CA.
2003-04  “David Ireland: A Retrospective,” Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA; Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA; Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
2001  “David Ireland and Gallery Paule Anglim Contemplate the de Young Museum,” Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CA
Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
2000  "Reflections," Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, NY
"Everyday Art," Freedman Gallery, Reading, PA
1998  Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CA
1997  The Gallery of the American Academy in Rome, Italy
1996  Arts Club of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Center for the Arts at Yerba Buena Garden, San Francisco, CA
1994  "Skellig," Ansel Adams Center for Photography, San Francisco, CA
1993  Installation, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA
Laura Carpenter Fine Art, Sante Fe, New Mexico
1992  Ruth Bloom Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
"David Ireland/Ann Hamilton," Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
1991  "You Can't Make Art By Making Art," Helmhaus, Zurich, Switzerland
"Proximities," Damon Brandt Gallery, New York, NY
1990  Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CA
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
"A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books," Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA
1989  Germans Van Eck, New York, NY
The Fabric Workshop, Philadelphia, PA
1988  Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Damon Brandt Gallery, New York, NY
"A Decade Documented," University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley; University of California at Santa Cruz; University of California at Irvine
1987  "Gallery as Place," Adeline Kent Award exhibition. Emmanuel Walter and Atholl McBean Galleries, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA
1984  New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY
1983  American River College Gallery, Sacramento, CA
1982  Installation, Emily Carr College of Art, Vancouver , Canada
1981  Leah Levy Gallery, San Francisco ( off-site location)
1980  White Columns Gallery, New York, NY
Libra Gallery, Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, CA
80 Langton Street Gallery, San Francisco, CA (off-site location)
1979  “Mr. Gordon’s Birthday Party,” Action at 500 Capp Street, San Francisco, CA
“65 Capp Street, South China Paintings,” San Francisco, CA
1978  Exhibition of the Maintenance Action at 500 Capp Street, San Francisco, CA
Videotape: "Mr. Gordon at Lunch," Tony Labat
1976  Restoration of a Portion of the Floor, Wall and Ceiling of the Main Gallery, Museum of Conceptual Art, San Francisco, CA
Whatcom Museum of History and Art, Bellingham, WA
“Calcutta Culture Spa,” San Francisco Art Institute Annual, 16th Street Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Selected Group Exhibitions:
2007  California College of Arts Centennial Exhibition Honoring Alumni, Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CA
2006  Moody Gallery, Houston, TX
2005  “Practice Makes Perfect: Bay Area Conceptual Craft,” Southern Exposure, San Francisco, CA
2003  “Capp Street Project Alumnae,” Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco,CA
“Solid Concept IV,” Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CA
“Magic Markers: Objects of Transformation,” Des Moines Art Center, De Moines, IA
2002  “Sweet Tooth,” Copia, Napa, CA
Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA
2001  “Making the Making," Apex Art Curatorial Program, New York, NY
“Overhead: Installation and Baker’s Dozen,” Julie Baker Fine Art, Grass Valley, CA
Pasadena Museum of Art, Pasadena, CA
2000  "Seascape," Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
"Rapture," Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA
"Eccentric Forms and Structures," Microsoft Art Collection, Redmond, WA
1999  "Museum Pieces: Bay Area Artists Consider the de Young," San Francisco, CA
"Ideas in Things," Irvine Fine Arts Center, Irvine, CA
"On the Ball: The Sphere in Contemporary Sculpture," DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, MA
1998  "Double Trouble: The Patchett Collection," Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego,CA
"Affinities and Collections," California Center for the Arts, Escondido, CA
"pFORMative Acts," San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA
1997  "The Art Orchestra: A Sculptors' Ensemble," The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, California
1996  "Thinking Print," The Museum of Modern Art, New York
"SFAI 125th Anniversary Tribute Show," Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, California
1994  "Solid Concept Three," Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, California
"Duchamp's Leg," Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (Travels)
"Mapping," Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
"David Ireland/Annette Messager/Bill Viola," Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, California
1991  "Selections from the Permanent Collection: 1975-1991," Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California
1990  “In-Site,” University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
"Signs of Life, Process and Materials, 1960-1990," Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1990  "Paradox of Process: Collages and Assemblage in the Permanent Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
"Constructing a History," Works from the Permanent Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art,
1989  "Solid Concept," Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CA
"40 Years of Assemblage," traveling exhibition organized by White Gallery, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
1988  The Home Show, Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara, CA
Awards in the Visual Arts, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Carnegie-Mellon Art Gallery, Pittsburgh, CA; the Virginia Museum, Richmond, VA
1987  "The Right Foot Show," San Francisco Airport Commission, San Francisco, CA
1985 "New Furnishings," Triton Museum of Art, Santa Clara, CA
"Inspired by Leonardo," San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA
1983  "Elegant Miniatures from San Francisco and Kyoto, Japan," Kyoto, Japan, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
1976  "Eighteen Bay Area Artists," Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
1975  Museum of Modern Art Rental Gallery, New York, New York, Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA

Public Projects and Commissions:
2000  IKEA, Oakland, CA
1999  “Big Chair,” Lincoln, Nebraska
1996  Addison Gallery, visiting artist’s apartment (Function artwork in collaboration with architect Henry Moss and master craftsman John Sirois), Andover, MA
1992  San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
1990  Pacific Enterprises Corporate Office Installation, First Interstate World Center, Los Angeles, CA
Security Pacific Bank Gallery (collaboration with Frederick Fisher, architect), San Francisco, CA
1998  Collaboration with architect Mark Mack for design and execution of furniture, The Headlands Center for the Arts, Fort Barry, CA
1987  Outdoor sculpture for the Three Rivers Art Festival, Pittsburgh, PA
1987  “Light Up- Philadelphia,” light schemes for the city of Philadelphia, Fairmont Park Art Association
1986  Artist in Residence, Headlands Center for the Arts, Ft. Barry, CA
1985-87  “Newgate,” entryway sculpture for the landfill Preservation area, Candlestick Point State Park, San Francisco, CA
1985-88  Functional works in the visitor’s facility of the State Reformatory at Monroe, Washington
1984-85  “Jade Garden,” A collaboration with Robert Wilhite at Washington Project for the Arts, Washington, D.C. A functional work serving as an apartment for visiting artists.

1997  American Academy of Art, Rome, Italy
1988  The Englehard Award, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA
1987  The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant
Adaline Kent Award, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA
1983  National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Fellowship grant
1982  Oakland Museum of California, Contemporary Art Council, Artist of the Year Award
1978  National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Fellowship grant

Selected Collections:
Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York
Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California
Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, California
Oakland Museum, Oakland, California
Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, California
Whatcom Museum of Art and History, Bellingham, Washington
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Gallery, Cambridge, Massachusetts
University of Californian, Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA
Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Logan, Utah
Norton Family Foundation
Di Rosa Preserve, Napa, CA

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