David Ireland

September 4, 2006 at 7:18 pm 1 comment

“Confessional, 1989.” Metal chairs and C-clamps. 48 x 20 x 20 inches

“You can’t make art by making art” has been a guiding principle in the work of David Ireland, one of California’s most important and critically acclaimed artists working in the challenging arena of conceptual and installation art. “Ideally my work has a visual presence that makes it seem like part of a usual, everyday situation,” he says. “I like the feeling that nothing’s been designed, that you can’t tell where the art stops and starts.”

Debris Pile: Debris from Past Exhibitions, 2003. Installation view from exhibition at Oakland Museum of California. Drywall, metal studs, and debris. 11 x 37 x 11 feet.

“Reading Chair and Debris Pile: Debris from Past Exhibitions” (detail), 2003. Installation view from exhibition at Oakland Museum of California.

“Dumbball,” 1983. Concrete. 4 inches diameter.

Among the simplest artworks, yet the most revealing of Ireland’s thought process, are his Dumbballs, hand-sized spheres of concrete the artist began making around 1983. Ireland makes them by continuously tossing a wet lump of concrete back and forth between his hands until, after twelve hours or so of this meditative action, the material dries into a natural rounded form. The name Ireland gives to these unassuming gray balls refers to the lack of artistic knowledge and skill needed to make them. Like a snowball, a child can make one as well as a genius; it is simply a matter of paying attention and being in the moment during the hours of creation.

“Harp,” 1991. Metal basin, metal stool, wire, cheesecloth, fabric dye, and C-clamp. 69 x 20 x 12 inches

In the sculpture Harp (1991), Ireland explores the phenomenon of capillary action—when liquid dye, as it comes in contact with a piece of fabric, rises or falls depending on surface forces. Ireland’s choice of materials—a white enameled basin and stool, sterile gauze-like cheesecloth, wire, and a metal C-clamp—was very deliberate. It was a way for the artist to emphasize the scientific nature of the piece.



Entry filed under: artist works.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Gigi Gabrielle  |  February 23, 2007 at 2:56 am

    I love David Ireland’s “mountain of debris.”
    I am looking for an installation work that I once saw in
    nyc several years ago—Late 80’s-90’s.
    It was an installation of about 5 newspaper sculpture
    figures. Very dramatic.
    I have never found a reference to this show, and
    I would love to view the newspaper figure again.


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