David Ireland

2 June - 26 July 2008

Karsten Schubert is pleased to present the first solo exhibition of Conceptual and installation artist David Ireland in the United Kingdom.


"You can’t make art by making art" has been a guiding principle in the work of David Ireland.

"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."


Unusually, Ireland did not fully commit himself to art until he was in his early 40s. Before his emergence as an artist in the 1970s, he led a double life as an adventurer and a shopkeeper. He had two businesses in San Francisco: importing artifacts and natural history collectanea from Africa, and guiding tourists in Kenya and Tanzania on safaris to photograph wildlife. He also lived abroad for extended periods, including a year in South Africa in the 1950s.


These life experiences have been influential, resulting, for example, in the reference to elephants in his works, the claiming of architecture as art, and the open-ended sense of exploration that is the foundation for his work.


In the work Untitled (1995/2001) a seemingly abstract profile in wire and sheet metal ambiguously evokes a rudder, the shape the African continent, the shape of an African elephant's ear, and the ear as generic symbol of the incommensurability of aural and visual intake.


A charcoal drawing of the ground floor plan of 500 Capp Street, his famous home and studio in San Francisco, is featured in this exhibition. Capp Street has become a world-recognized example of an artist transforming architecture into fine art and is Ireland’s most defining work. In 1975, he purchased the run-down Victorian property and spent the next three years working on it. While he did not initially intend to create a work of art, he gradually began to perceive his actions in cleaning and restoring the house as an artistic performance, equating his moves with those of any painter or sculptor. He coated the walls — stripped of wallpaper but unpainted— and stripped wood floors with high-gloss polyurethane varnish, making them appear both alive with reflections and fossilized, as if in amber. He approached the task of capturing the essence and the history of Capp Street with a deliberate respect and finesse that for him fixed his actions firmly in the realm of art. The house is filled with sculptures made out of "non-art" materials; Ireland freely incorporates anything within his conceptual or physical reach–dirt, concrete, wire, and other everyday materials – his work is subtle, puzzling, and witty, and consistently challenges traditional definitions of art.