Friday, May 22, 2009


Bay Area conceptual artist David Ireland dies
Kenneth Baker, Chronicle Art CriticThursday, May 21, 2009
David Ireland, a Bay Area sculptor and conceptual artist of national reputation, died of pneumonia Sunday after suffering for several years from dementia with Lewy bodies.He was 78.For an artist who worked in materials as graceless as cement, disused furniture and broken bits of mass-produced garden sculpture, Mr. Ireland enjoyed an unusually varied audience. His reluctance to take himself or his work too seriously nearly always made itself felt. Even people who thought contemporary art absurd often appreciated his willingness to affirm the quotient of absurdity in his work and methods.Mr. Ireland's art found its way into the collections of institutions that range from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden at the University of Nebraska.In 2004, the Oakland Museum of California honored Mr. Ireland with a traveling retrospective. Its title, "The Way Things Are: The Art of David Ireland," aptly conveyed a sense of him as muser on the human condition and as grappler with plain objects' resistance to exalted uses.As an artist, Mr. Ireland had an interrupted life.He was born in Bellingham, Wash., in 1930 and educated there in public schools and at Western Washington University. In 1953, shortly before being drafted into the U. S. Army, he received a degree in industrial design and printmaking from California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts) in Oakland.After two years' military service in Missouri, Mr. Ireland returned to live and work in Bellingham. For several years it served as his point of departure for extensive travels in Europe and Africa.In the late 1950s, Mr. Ireland founded an artifacts import business called Hunter Africa. He transplanted it to San Francisco, and started a second venture, leading safaris in Africa, after his marriage to Bellingham native Joanne Westford, and the birth of their two children.The marriage ended in divorce in 1970.In the mid-'70s, Mr. Ireland completed a graduate degree at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he met other artists who came to personify the Bay Area conceptual movement, including Tom Marioni, Paul Kos, Howard Fried and Terry Fox.In 1975, Mr. Ireland bought a ramshackle Victorian house at 500 Capp St. in San Francisco. As he slowly transformed its interior, it became known in the art world as the site and source of much of his work of the 1980s and '90s.In 1979, Mr. Ireland bought a second Mission District house at 65 Capp St. and transformed it structurally inside and out, winning him acclaim as a minimalist architect. Art patron Ann Hatch bought the house three years later to serve as home base for a nonprofit artist's residency she named the Capp Street Project.Mr. Ireland's reputation as an architect took another leap in the 1980s thanks to his renovation, with artist Mark Thompson and an army of interns, of the main building at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito.In 2004, failing health forced Mr. Ireland to move from the 500 Capp St. house to an assisted living situation. Only the intervention of a San Francisco art patron kept the Ireland house and its unique contents and character from sacrifice on the open market. The benefactor plans to restore and preserve the house as a study center for and monument to Mr. Ireland's work and sensibility.Mr. Ireland is survived by a sister, Judy Ireland, his son Ian Ireland and daughter Shaughn Niland, and five grandchildren.A memorial event will be announced later.

A personal Note from the ARM: When I was a student, a mutual friend introduced me to David, and I was lucky enough to be invited by him to his house at 500 Capp street. We had coffee and bran muffins, and he showed me everything he was working on, and gave me some catalogues. He also looked at a few projects I was considering and told me just to do my thing. When I called him up to meet that morning, I asked him what he was doing, to which he replied "just doing some housework", which coming from David could have meant anything.

related David Ireland Post HERE

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