Join us for an intimate artist conversation between David Wilson and Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo on Wednesday, June 23 at 6pm. Drop by in person, or tune in on Instagram Live @500cappstreet. David Wilson is the resident artist of The David Ireland House while artist Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo is the curator of Southern Exposure’s current exhibition, We use our hands to support. They have previously collaborated with one another and now find themselves in the same neighborhood doing collective exhibition work. Join the artists as they check in on each other, share stories and, exchange experiences of their work processes in an intimate one-on-one dialog.
This program will take place outdoors on The David Ireland House terrace. Free and open to the public.
Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo is an artist, activist, educator, storyteller & curator who lives/works between Ohlone Land [Oakland, CA] and Powhatan Land [Richmond,VA]. Their work has been included in exhibitions and performances at Konsthall C [Stockholm, Sweden], SEPTEMBER Gallery [Hudson, NY], EFA Project Space [New York City, NY], Leslie Lohman Museum [New York City, NY], San Francisco State University Gallery, Signal Center for Contemporary Art [Malmo, Sweden], Yerba Buena Center for the Arts [San Francisco, CA] and Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive [Berkeley, CA], amongst others. For the past 5 years, Lukaza has been the Lead Curator at Nook Gallery [Oakland, CA], collaborating with over 80+ artists, writers, performers & musicians, in a gallery located in their apartment kitchen. They are currently enrolled in an MFA program at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA.
David Wilson creates observational drawings based on direct experiences with landscape and orchestrates site-based gatherings that draw together a wide net of artists, performers, filmmakers, chefs, and artisans into collaborative relationships. He organized the experimental exhibition The Possible at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) and received the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) 2012 SECA Art Award. He has exhibited his work with SFMOMA, was included in the 2010 CA Biennial, and presented a Matrix solo exhibition at BAMPFA. Wilson has received grants from The Andy Warhol Foundation, Southern Exposure, The Center for Craft and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation. He is based in Oakland, CA.
500 Capp Street celebrates the launch of its newly-named Paule Anglim Archive Room, opening the space to the public for the first time for a special archival exhibition. Named after one of San Francisco’s most important gallerists who represented and championed Ireland and many other local conceptual artists, the Paule Anglim Archive Room houses objects, artworks, photographs, and ephemera that serve as an essential time capsule of the conceptual art movement of the 1970s-90s in the Bay Area and beyond. In 2022, Anglim’s estate donated several small artworks, papers, and more to 500 Capp Street, enriching the archive with works by many of Ireland’s contemporaries including Gay Outlaw, Paul Kos, Enrique Chagoya, William T. Wiley, Tom Marioni, Tony Labat, and Alan Rath. Select works from the newly expanded collection will be on display alongside pieces from Ireland’s personal collection and works by female conceptual artists from his circle including Karen Finley, Mildred Howard, Amy Trachtenberg, Ann Hamilton, Mie Preckler, Catherine Wagner, and Peggy Ingalls. Also on view are other donated or loaned works including several gifted by Jim Melchert and William T. Wiley’s 1977 book, Suite of Daze, on loan from printer Timothy Berry. Screening in the Garage, will be Same Difference (1975), a film by Al Wong with sound by Terry Fox on loan from Canyon Cinema. Catalogs, personal correspondence, and other ephemera documenting the lives and careers of Ireland and his contemporaries will also be on display.
Paule Anglim was one of the most successful gallerists in San Francisco who founded and ran Gallery Paule Anglim for four decades until her passing in 2015. Gallery Paule Anglim’s catalogue raisonné encompassed the work of defining figures of the Bay Area Beat era and conceptual art sensibility. Anglim’s connection with David Ireland ran deeper than simply a gallerist collaborating with an artist to sell their work and make a profit. She was originally from Quebec, Canada and came to San Francisco in the 1950s, after receiving a degree in sociology, with the intention of becoming a social worker. Although she did not continue in that line of work, Anglim’s background in sociology can be seen as the foundation that enabled her to connect artists on a more profound level with their communities. Ed Gilbert, who was Anglim’s director at Gallery Paule Anglim for over 27 years, stated that every artist they chose was someone who would produce works that were “worth sharing with the public and entering into the historical record.” It is evident that Anglim was not interested in trendy, fast-paced, consumerist art; instead, she looked to engage with and promote artists, such as David Ireland, whose stories would help shape future generations.
The Paule Anglim Archive Room at 500 Capp Street is a testament to Anglim’s desire to uplift artists who would help shape future generations. The dedication of this room, essentially, can be seen as a gesture from the David Ireland House to continue the legacy of a person who played a major role in Ireland’s success as an artist. On the one hand, the naming of the archive is a small token of appreciation to Paule Anglim. On the other hand, it is the recognition that without Paule Anglim, David Ireland’s legacy would not be what it is today. The archives are meant to be accessed by artists and researchers by appointment.
500 Capp Street is proud to present a solo exhibition focused on David Ireland this summer. The exhibition explores questions surrounding conceptual art, and the issues artists confront when deep in studio work. 500 Capp Street was the home and studio of conceptual artist David Ireland from 1974 to 2004. Ireland often navigated between the correlation of work and site. What is a work and how does it occur? Ireland would extend his practice of self-reflexivity to his studio. There is a point in his work where the studio becomes the central object of art itself. In 1981, Suzanne Foley emphasized that the strongest characteristic of Bay Area conceptual art is its interface with everyday life. When does a work begin or end? With conceptual art, the object sooner or later becomes a shell of what it was, and transforms into new forms and ideas as the concept takes over. Marcel Broodthaers would often use mussel shells incorporated in his artworks, turning verbal puns associated with mussel shells into visual sculptures. David Ireland would create puns using conceptual artists like Broodthaers, John Cage or Yves Klein, by adopting their use of humor, chance and color. He dedicated titles of his work to these figures when he talks about art not being logical, or stripping objects from its use. Ireland’s iconic sculpture, Marcel B. (1980-1994) which includes a cascade of sardine cans on the floor is one of the highlights of this exhibition. There will also be Ireland’s sculptural tribute to Yves Klein, Marcel Duchamp; and his South China Chairs (1979), arranged as they were with the well-known Broom Collection with Boom (1978/1988) between them. Within Ireland’s studio practice at 500 Capp Street, he acknowledges the doubts he is confronted with in his studio. He would mention that it would take a certain amount of strength or belief, to what is known as “the leap of faith.” In an interview with Laura J Hoffman, he asks, “What is the faith about and why is there a need to pursue the faith?” In the end, what’s important to an artist’s practice in the studio is the will to discover, reducing art to a personal authentic choice and a sense of commitment to the process of discovery.
Ireland would also be known to say, “You can’t make art by making art.” This statement has become one of Ireland’s best-known sayings and it’s often used to summarize the philosophy that guided his Zen-like, interdisciplinary practice. Concerned with formal and material invention and in happenings outside the sphere of marketable art, his work explores complex questions of creativity, the role of the artist, and the meaning of art. Ireland’s best-known work is his house and studio, 500 Capp Street, served simultaneously as his environmental artwork, social sculpture, and residence for 30 years. It embodies his visual language and exists as both a container for his art and an artwork in its own right. To Ireland, it all boils down to what an artist is willing to step into or away from, so that they can form their own artistic experience, even if it means forgetting all the accumulated meaning, history or original purpose of a known object, process or site.
“If I had a prior vision, in Burma it all became a reality, and for me this trip really started there…There is some magic here and it can only be explained by some history of Devotion.”1This is an excerpt from a letter David Ireland wrote to a friend while on his trip to South and Southeast Asia in 1975. In another letter to his mother during the same trip he wrote, “I suppose that I should not be so pleased to see this kind of thing and I confess that what appealed is the primitive state of things.”2 These two statements together define the complexity of colonialism and the tangled web of perceptions that has lingered in contemporary Western societies. On the one side, Western cultures often admire, and even yearn for, what appears to be the simplicity of “primitive,” or non-modernized cultures. On the other side, some, but not all, recognize that they are contributing to the overall perception that these cultures are only valuable as long as they remain in a stagnated, pre-industrial state. Through research, one can gain not only appreciation for other cultures and their expansive histories, but also learn ways to respect them without projecting onto them Western colonialist ideals. David Ireland’s letters not only serve as a window into his mind to let us know how he thought about the world around him, but they also serve as a gateway to understanding why he kept certain objects in his home.
During Sherwin Rio’s exhibition, As Above So Below at 500 Capp Street in 2022-23, he took various objects from Ireland’s collection and placed them on a table in the Paule Anglim Archive Room in the basement of the house. These objects had previously been located throughout the rest of the house, many of them in the dining room. By moving them to the basement, Rio encourages contemplation of the interdependence that exists between the house and these foreign, often exoticized, objects. On an even deeper level, Rio stimulates conversations regarding American society and the colonialist foundation on which it was formed.
At first, the origins of many of the objects were still unknown, and the Organization, in light of their desire to decolonize the archive, began conducting provenance research. Among these objects was a seated wooden Buddha statue, which appeared to be of Southeast Asian origin. This statue, seated in a double lotus position3, although difficult to make out now because of its broken off right arm, is in the Bhumisparsha Mudra position, or the Earth Touching Buddha.4 The Bhumisparsha Mudra position is defined by the Buddha’s left hand resting gently in his lap with the palm facing up, and his right hand resting on the front of his right knee, palm facing inward and fingers extended and touching the ground.5 The Buddha, who had reached enlightenment under the Bodhi tree and gone up to heaven to teach celestial beings, then returned back to earth to continue his mission of teaching earthly beings about Buddhism. The Bhumisparsha Mudra is significant because it is a reminder of the moment when the Buddha “returned to his physical body under the Bhodi tree and touched the earth, thus the very act of realizing enlightenment as the historical Buddha Shakyamuni.”6 Initially, Indian Bhumisparsha Mudra Buddha statues were accompanied by other storytelling symbols such as, a small Bohdi tree above his head and a flame that is attached to his ushnisha. The ushnisha is a round lump on top of the Buddha’s head under his hair.7It is often called the Buddha’s “second brain” because he acquired it at the moment of enlightenment. As Buddhism traveled into Southeast Asia and the story of his enlightenment became more popular, the additional storytelling features disappeared, and a more stylized version of the Buddha emerged.
The seated Buddha statue from Ireland’s collection appears to be an example of statues from Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). In these regions, Theravada Buddhism, or the way of the elders, was most prominent, and is reflected in the way their statues were made. Theravada Buddhism emphasizes the Buddha Shakyamuni by highlighting early relic traditions.8 In other words, these statues focus on the Buddha’s body by minimizing external factors such as, acknowledging the presence of his garments through minimalistic outlining, and defining the “Earth Touching” moment through only the downward extension of the right hand’s fingers. After a considerable amount of research, it was inconclusive as to whether Ireland’s Buddha statue came from Thailand or Myanmar, considering many features were similar to statues from both countries. For example, in Thailand the head is elongated, the fingers are all equal in length, and the body appears more “fluid.”9 All these characteristics apply to Ireland’s statue. However, similarities between Ireland’s statue and Buddha statues from Myanmar also surfaced after extensive observation of statues from this region. For example, Myanmar Buddha statues are often seated in a double lotus position, whereas in Thailand they are usually seated in a single lotus position.10 Additionally, Myanmar statues appear to be seated in a declining angle with their hips higher than their knees. On the contrary, Thai statues appear to normally have their hips and knees at a parallel height. Furthermore, the most common material in Thailand is bronze, but in Myanmar the preferred material is wood.11 Finally, Ireland’s Buddha has been painted with what appears to be a red lacquer, which was determined after close observation of a Buddha statue from Myanmar on display at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.12
Researching the provenance of Ireland’s Buddha statue was the first step in formulating the reason as to why this object came into his collection and what special significance it held for him. The second step was looking through the archive and reading his letters and postcards to friends and family back home. Although a definite point of origin cannot be determined at this time, I am left wondering if this statue is from Myanmar, and possibly, from around the location of the ancient kingdom of Bagan. In the letter to his mother, Ireland wrote that he “spent 2 days there crawling through temples and climbing to the tops of some to look out over the Irrawaddy.”13 On this trip in 1975 Ireland visited India, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), and Afghanistan, yet it is only Myanmar that he writes about extensively in the letters to his mother and friend.14 It is evident through these correspondence, that even though Ireland traveled multiple times to Thailand and only once to Myanmar, it was ultimately Myanmar that captivated his heart.15
The provenance research conducted was inconclusive in determining how Ireland acquired this statue, making it impossible to determine whether he obtained the sculpture by legal means. This alone raises many questions concerning decolonization and repatriation of objects, which will continue to be discussed throughout the upcoming decades in Western society. However, I would like to highlight an interesting observation between David Ireland and the Buddha statue in his collection; although, I cannot say whether Ireland himself realized this connection. The Buddha statue Ireland brought home is a representation of the exact moment when the Buddha returned to earth after he had achieved enlightenment. It is possible that this statue in a parallel narrative could represent the moment that Ireland returned from his spiritual journey in Southeast Asia, where he also had achieved a level of enlightenment. Nearing the end of his journey, Ireland acknowledged both his admiration for the country of Myanmar and its people, as well as his Western exoticized biases of their “primitive” state. In the latter part of his life Ireland demonstrates his desire to continue incorporating Buddhism, and specifically Zen Buddhism, into his daily life.
In conclusion, this provenance research has not only opened doors to Ireland’s past, but it has also conveyed that his perspective gradually changed throughout his life. This notion of continual change, or impermanence, is a core Buddhist concept; and Ireland, who previously made a living by selling “exotic,” and somewhat controversial, objects from Africa, demonstrated his ability to recognize colonialist thought patterns. I cannot speculate whether Ireland would have articulated that this perspective was colonialist, which has now been defined as being systemically embedded in Western culture and society. Nonetheless, we can use his “moment of revelation” as a stepping stone to decolonize 500 Capp Street’s archive, and in conjunction critically address notions of colonization with American history.
David Ireland, “To Love,” January 25, 1975, Paule Anglim Archive. [↩]
David Ireland, “To Mother,” January 1, 1975, Paule Anglim Archive. [↩]
Double lotus means that the figure is seated with both legs crossed in front and both feet are stacked on top of the opposing knee. [↩]
Kurt Behrendt, How to Read Buddhist Art (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2019), 72. [↩]
A single lotus position is when the statue is seated with the legs crossed but only one foot is resting on top of the opposing knee. I came to this conclusion after extensive observation of Buddha statues within the online collections of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among a few other online sources. [↩]
This was determined after comparing what appears to look like red “paint” on this sculpture to remnants of lacquer on the Standing Crowned and Bejeweled Buddha from Myanmar (Burma) at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco in the Southeast Asian Collection. [↩]
Ireland, “To Mother,” January 1, 1975.Longer excerpt: “After Mandalay I went to Pagan which was the old capitol city of Burma and dates back to about 150 A.D. There is the remains there of an estimated 5000 pagodas and I can almost attest to that fact. I spent 2 days there crawling through temples and climbing to the tops of some to look out over the Irrawaddy.” [↩]
Schedule your next class field trip at The David Ireland House – a living sculpture! Facilitated by our Artist-Educators at the David Ireland House, private youth education tours expose students to the art of the everyday and the conceptual framework and clever interventions of David Ireland. With an emphasis on the humor, playfulness, and experimentation of finding art anywhere and everywhere, youth tours center on making conceptual art accessible to young people. Students will learn a brief history of 500 Capp Street and David Ireland before touring the House and current exhibitions. Tours take about an hour and a half, opening up to discussion and questions with students, teachers, and facilitators. All ages, including parents, are welcome to join your group for the tour. For more information or to schedule your class tour, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
UNDERGRADUATE & GRADUATE STUDENT TOURS:
We also offer private tours serving undergraduate and graduate classes in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Students are guided through the House, introduced to current exhibitions, and have the opportunity to explore the Paule Anglim Archive Room in addition to learning about the history of the House and the work of David Ireland. Led by artist guides, curator of exhibitions and programs, and our archivist, students will experience a behind the scenes look at the inner workings of 500 Capp Street. For more information or to schedule your class tour, contact email@example.com.
Columbia Park Boys and Girls Club
San Francisco Art Institute’s City Studios Youth Program
The Berkeley School, K-8 Students
SF Parks and Recreation’s Mission Arts Center
FAMSF Internship Program
41 Ross Youth Artist Residency Program, High School Students
Marin Country Day School, K-8 Students
Architectural Association, School of Architecture
California College of the Arts, Architecture
California College of the Arts, Fine Arts
California College of the Arts, Design
California College of the Arts, Humanities
University of San Francisco, Art History and Museum Studies
500 Capp Street periodically offers artist-driven workshops for adults across the Bay Area. Led by artists in residence and visiting teaching artists, participation in workshops help those who may not view themselves as “artists” to realize David Ireland’s adage that, “You don’t make art by making art.” Workshops for adults (as well as youth) are hands-on experiences, introducing concepts in accessible terms. The dynamics of our workshops enable participants to see, create, and experience ideas, interpretation, and performance which opens them up to the view that perhaps they already are and can be conceptual and experimental artists. As a result, participants will take away new tools and skills, ways to create and express themselves, and an invitation to see objects in a different way.
In keeping with the artist-driven curriculum development of the youth education program, the adult education program encourages teaching artists and artists in residence to offer workshops that speak to their own skills and interests as they relate to the history of Bay Area conceptual art and the works and philosophies of David Ireland.
For more information about public education at 500 Capp Street, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up for the mailing list to be notified of upcoming workshop offerings.
Beginning in 2022, 500 Capp Street issues open calls to local high school students each year to apply for summer internship opportunities. Four to five week long internships for 2-3 selected interns will be composed of three 4-hour shifts per week, working at the David Ireland House under the guidance of the art and education staff. Summer internships will culminate in an event open to the public where, in the collaborative, artist-driven spirit of 500 Capp Street, interns are invited to select roles for themselves and help develop the event.