David Ireland

David Ireland, "Dumb Ball"
David Ireland, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, Dumb Ball, 1989. Concrete. Dimensions vary (approximately 4 inches in diameter). Unlimited edition. Collection of The Fabric Workshop and Museum. Photo credit: Aaron Igler.

During the month of February 1989, David Ireland was “in residence” in the galleries of FWM. Titled In Studio, the project was part installation and part performance as the artist and FWM constructed a large muslin tent in the gallery for Ireland’s use as a working studio. Windows were made so viewers could witness Ireland’s creative process.

Ireland gathered materials from the refuse of an out-of-business textile manufacturing company located in the same building as FWM—materials seemingly lacking in aesthetic content such as metal tables, old lockers, pieces of wood, and metal rods. Surrounded by bags of opened gravel mix and makeshift tables, Ireland cast and molded concrete into sculptural forms, creating assemblage sculptures from this combination of found objects and concrete.

Table of Chunks, for example, is a metal table on top of which sits a careful arrangement of concrete “chunks,” the casts of corners, stairs, and other architectural spaces in the building. Cascade combines a small table and a metal pitcher, which are dramatically lit by a single metal floor lamp. This still-life arrangement has a humorous undercurrent: concrete appears to pour out of the pitcher, though placed upright as it is, this gesture defies gravity.

During the course of his residency, Ireland also fabricated a series of Dumb Balls, made by tossing a handful of wet concrete back and forth from hand to hand over many hours until it hardened. For FWM’s exhibition brochure (1989), Ireland said about his work:

I call myself a non-media installation artist. I prefer to explore without any end or purpose in sight, an active inquiry on an architectural scale. I just live my life and my art occurs in the process.