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David Ireland. Dumb Ball, 1989. Concrete. Dimensions variable, approximately 4 inches (10.16 cm) (diameter). Open edition. Photo credit: Aaron Igler. David Ireland. Table of Chunks, 1989. Cement, masonite, and metal. 48 x 60.25 x 36 inches (121.92 x 153.04 x 91.44 cm). Collection of the artist. Photo credit: Will Brown. David Ireland. Cascade, 1989. Metal, concrete, wood, and light. 77 x 45 x 26 inches (195.58 x 114.3 x 66.04 cm). Collection of the artist. Photo credit: Will Brown.
David Ireland. Dumb Ball, 1989. Concrete. Dimensions variable, approximately 4 inches (10.16 cm) (diameter). Open edition. Photo credit: Aaron Igler.
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David Ireland. Table of Chunks, 1989. Cement, masonite, and metal. 48 x 60.25 x 36 inches (121.92 x 153.04 x 91.44 cm). Collection of the artist. Photo credit: Will Brown.
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David Ireland. Cascade, 1989. Metal, concrete, wood, and light. 77 x 45 x 26 inches (195.58 x 114.3 x 66.04 cm). Collection of the artist. Photo credit: Will Brown.
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David Ireland

During the month of February 1989, David Ireland was “in residence” in the galleries of the FWM. Titled In Studio, the project was part installation and part performance as the artist and the FWM constructed a large muslin tent in the Gallery for Ireland’s use as a working studio. Windows were made so viewers could witness Ireland’s creative process.

Ireland gathered materials from the refuse of an out-of-business textile manufacturing company located in the same building as the FWM—materials seemingly lacking in aesthetic content such as metal tables, old lockers, pieces of wood, and metal rods. Surrounded by bags of opened gravel mix and makeshift tables, Ireland cast and molded concrete into sculptural forms, creating assemblage sculptures from this combination of found objects and concrete.

Table of Chunks, for example, is a metal table on top of which sits a careful arrangement of concrete “chunks,” the casts of corners, stairs, and other architectural spaces in the building. Cascade combines a small table and a metal pitcher, which are dramatically lit by a single metal floor lamp. This still-life arrangement has a humorous undercurrent: concrete appears to pour out of the pitcher, though placed upright as it is, this gesture defies gravity.

During the course of his residency, Ireland also fabricated a series of Dumb Balls, made by tossing a handful of wet concrete back and forth from hand to hand over many hours until it hardened. For the FWM’s exhibition brochure (1989), Ireland said about his work: I call myself a non-media installation artist. I prefer to explore without any end or purpose in sight, an active inquiry on an architectural scale. I just live my life and my art occurs in the process.

Bio
American, 1930–2009
David Ireland was born in Bellingham, WA, and began his undergraduate studies at Western Washington State University (1948–1950) before moving to San Francisco to complete his degree at the California College of Arts and Crafts (BA, 1953). He traveled extensively and ran a gallery for African art before returning to graduate school, first at Laney College in Oakland, CA (1972–1974), and then at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he earned an MFA in 1974. Ireland’s philosophy can be summed up by an early poster he printed with the text, “You can’t make art by making art.” It is the concept and intention behind artmaking that has interested Ireland, and he has made the most unremarkable and humble materials (dirt, concrete, tar, bits of paper) his media of choice. He is best known for transforming a dilapidated house in San Francisco into an ongoing “social sculpture,” working for nearly three years to clean and then preserve the abstract patternings of glue-stained walls, making sculpture from debris, and generally per forming everyday actions with the intention of an artist and per former. Ireland’s work has been the subject of many one-person exhibitions, including shows organized by the Center for the Arts at Yerba Buena Garden in San Francisco (1996), the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (with Ann Hamilton, 1992), the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC (1990), and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1988).