YOU CAN’T MAKE ART BY MAKING ART: Artists Reflect on the Legacy of David Ireland


 Mari Andrews.  Ball for David , 2011, steel wool, 4 inches diameter

Mari Andrews. Ball for David, 2011, steel wool, 4 inches diameter

In 1980, David Ireland (1930-2009) had a solo show at Claremont Graduate School called David Ireland: You Can’t Make Art By Making Art. The title’s koan-like phrase gets to the enigmatic crux of David Ireland as an artist. Considered one of San Francisco’s most important conceptual and installation artists, Ireland challenged notions of what art can be, not through confrontation, but rather by embracing and expanding the aesthetic and meaningful possibilities of the everyday. Incorporating Marcel Duchamp’s use of found objects, John Cage’s openness to chance and process and an appreciation of Eastern, and particularly Zen Buddhist, philosophy, Ireland, along with Bay Area contemporaries Tom Marioni, Paul Kos and Mark Thompson, blurred the boundaries between life and art.

As an involved member of the Bay Area art community—fellow artist, teacher or visiting artist at SFAI, CCAC and Fiberworks, resident artist and contributing renovator at the Headlands Center for the Arts and designer of the original Capp Street Project building—as well as an internationally exhibited and acclaimed artist, Ireland has had an immeasurable impact, most significantly in California. This time in history, two and one-half years after his passing, may be a fitting moment to reflect on Ireland’s influence, while his presence is still felt strongly by those who knew him.  

Mari Andrews, Ray Beldner, Jordan Biren, Randy Colosky, Sheila Ghidini, Daniel Nevers, Mie Preckler, Sabine Reckewell, Kerry Vander Meer and Stephen Whisler have been invited to participate in this exhibition as a small step toward comprehending the legacy of David Ireland. Among these California artists, many had personal contact with Ireland; others did not know or work with him, but recognize his influence in their own work or way of thinking about art. Exhibited works range from those created at the time of artists’ encounters with Ireland to those made specifically for this occasion. All have been contributed as the artists’ genuine and personal reflections, which are elucidated in accompanying artwork statements.


I would like to sincerely thank the artists in this exhibition for sharing with me their personal stories and memories. I know David Ireland held a profound place in some of your lives, and I deeply appreciate your participation in this public tribute. 

Thank you, David Ireland, for your work and point of view that inspired me to move across country to further my studies in art. You have opened my eyes to new ways of seeing. We still have a lot to learn from you.

~ Chandra Cerrito, Curator

Exhibition Gallery