Monday, June 22, 2009

David Ireland (1930–2009)

All of us here at the Addison are deeply saddened by the recent loss of David Ireland, a key figure in the conceptual art movement and a much admired member of the Addison’s extended family. Over the past few decades, the museum was privileged to have a long and productive relationship with David. In addition to acquiring several of his artworks, we hosted his retrospective (organized by the Oakland Museum of Art) in 2004. This was an amazing show that surveyed thirty years of David’s work and included about 80 sculptures, drawings, photographs, prints, sculptures and large-scale installations. The exhibition captured Ireland’s unique vision and adventurous and creative spirit.

This same spirit and vision is embodied and lives on in the Addison’s Edward E. Elson artist-in-residence apartment. Invited in 1992 by the museum’s then director, Jock Reynolds, to create a new visiting artist’s apartment in the attic of historic Abbot Hall, Ireland collaborated with architects Henry Moss of Bruner/Cott Associates and master craftsman John Sirois to create an enigmatic, provocative—and truly magical space. Working his strange alchemy, Ireland along with the help of this skilled team, transformed everyday materials into art. To date the apartment has hosted an impressive roster of visiting artists including the likes of Dawoud Bey, Wendy Ewald, Jim Hodges, William Wegman, and Sue Williams to name a few. The apartment was generously supported by Abbot Academy alumna Ann M. Hatch.

Below are some archival photographs of Ireland at work and scans of his drawings related to the apartment's furnishings.

Today the Abbot Hall Artist Apartment is currently “activated,” as the artist would have said, by a handful of Addison staff who are using the space for temporary offices while the museum is closed. Each day we report to work, climb the zigzagging bamboo stairs, carefully dodging the many exposed timber beams, as we navigate to our desks that are nestled in various corners throughout. Like Ireland, who lived at 500 Capp Street, an 1886 Victorian that he purchased in 1975, and was once described by a writer as an “environmental-sculpture-in-progress,” the Addison team has the privilege of “living” inside a work of art. An accessioned object in the Addison’s collection, the Abbot Hall Artist Apartment is both an artwork and a window into an extraordinarily idiosyncratic artist’s mind.

The dining room upon completion and now occupied by staff:

The living room:

Coincidentally or part of some weird universal synchronicity, 8th graders in Andover are currently working on the following assignment:

To Kill a Mockingbird – Point of View Sculpture/Writing Project

“I have this notion, that art occurs in the process of life itself, and you don’t have to go outside of the context of your own life. It’s all there, and you just tap into it. You have to make yourself available to possibilities.” –David Ireland

"First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—”


“—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (Atticus, p. 30)

“Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.” (Scout, p. 279)

This assignment is designed to be a marriage of theme and concept. Using the theme of “walking in someone else’s shoes,” select a character from the book to be. Use your chosen character’s point of view to find the “art that occurs in the process of life itself.” Create a sculpture using ordinary objects in such a way as to make the viewer think and see things differently. Include a written piece in your finished product. Select the genre most fitting to your concept, character and the theme.

Today, tomorrow and many days to come, the Addison staff, visiting artists, and museum visitors will walk in the lasting footprints left behind by David Ireland in the Abbot Hall Artist Apartment.

Posted by Allison Kemmerer, Curator of Photography and of Contemporary Art, and Jaime DeSimone, Charles H. Sawyer Curatorial Fellow.

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