article & photos by Meaghan Alfonso for ArtsEarth
The late conceptual artist, David Ireland, was born in Bellingham, Washington. He graduated with his BFA at the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1953. He didn’t decide to dedicate himself as a full-time artist until his 40s, and returned to school in San Francisco. This was where he bought an 1886 Victorian house in 1975—500 Capp Street. As an installation artist, his work became embedded inside the house. He removed window moldings and stripped the wallpaper, and created site-specific installations. Now, the house has been saved and preserved to exhibit some of his finest works.
The house consists of two floors: The dining room on the bottom level and bedrooms and living room on the top level. There were so many interesting things to look at that you can get lost in one piece for a long period of time. There were many pieces that stood out more than others, but the one that grabbed my attention the most was a fiery propane gas tank chandelier. At the top, these two tanks are tied and hung from the ceiling with copper wires. It portrayed an excellent example of form and function. I visited the gallery during the day, but during evening exhibits the chandeliers are lit with fire. Ireland also created quite amount of pieces out of cement. There were cement balls around the house — Some were in a bowl that acted as a centerpiece in the living room and some were in wooden box containers. He also sculpted cement that acted as a base for a variety of lamps. Downstairs in the dining room were some smaller pieces. The lighting in the room gave it this real, dramatic feel. There were many conceptual pieces that not only seemed strange yet rather thought-provoking.
The gallery hosts were very knowledgeable about the house and David Ireland. Of course I did have many questions about David, but what intrigued me the most was that he was greatly inspired by Marcel Duchamp. In fact, Ireland has a framed Duchamp portrait on his bedroom dresser. Duchamp’s work influenced many of his pieces, and it undeniably shows. Ireland created a piece made of chopped wood bound together with a shovel stuck into the middle, and signed “D.I.”