David Ireland (1930–2009)

David Ireland, the sculptor and Conceptual artist, died on Sunday, reports Kenneth Baker for the San Francisco Chronicle. Ireland was born in Bellingham, Washington, in 1930. In 1953, he received a degree in industrial design and printmaking from California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts) in Oakland. In the mid-1970s, 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, Ireland bought a ramshackle Victorian house at 500 Capp Street 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, Ireland bought a second Mission District house at 65 Capp Street 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. 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.

Ireland’s art found its way into the collections of institutions that range from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, to the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Nebraska. In 2004, the Oakland Museum of California honored 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,” writes Baker.