David Wallace
Graduate Student

Contact information

Email: dereulb@hotmail.com

Group: Department of Art Practice

Web site: http://www.davidwallaceprojects.blogspot.com

Personal statement

A large painting fills the central wall of David Wallace’s studio. To the left and right are works on paper, several of which are mounted to wedge shaped forms placed high, near the top edge of the wall.  These drawings on paper mark not only a significant departure from the large work in front of me, but several years of narrative paintings he completed prior to coming to U.C. Rejecting the narrative work of the past, Wallace has constructed a laboratory for process drawings. Iterating with a fine graphite pencil, his art now transmits what he understands to be the immateriality of man.

The emptiness depicted in the central painting drew my attention first. The painting’s surface, a very large oak panel, was physically smashed and punctured.  Within the splintered and broken picture plane, a background of gray tones further skews our perspective. The scale of the painted room is nearly equivalent to the scale of the room where we stand. It appears that the painting represents one and the same room for the painter. Basically, we are standing inside a room looking into another room—an empty room—a room that is vacant—but for these raw torn holes.

I often like to say: "I make pictures," instead of saying "I make paintings." This offers the possibility to see the work for what it is first, rather than look immediately for what it means. There is no objective thing I am looking at outside of my body, which I am trying to represent in paint; that is, of course, until I have made a mark upon the surface. This first mark begins the long process of figuring out how to find the right relationship between the objective forms on the painting's surface with the subjective images inside of myself.

Due to the scale of this painting, Wallace succeeds beyond the experience of materials by provoking tensions (I am in the picture looking at the picture), on three levels:  On one level, associative memories show-up as the painting represents an empty room.  A second experience revolves around the physical sensations standing inside a nearly indistinguishable enclosed space.  Curiously, a third (neither here nor there) transitory space pretends to exist.  Wallace describes his intention this way:

Many of my paintings have their starting place in memory. Memory is a liminal, subjective place, one that captures echoes from an experiential time and space now past that may have once been considered objective. Memory also captures the projections of our imagination as we re- live certain parts of our life within our minds. There is also the present moment, which is always with us and is always asserting its subjective influence on memory based on its objective relationship to time.

A central question I posed to Wallace about his new work concerns intended or unintended meaning. “My brother said to me: Make a picture with 100 things going on all at once. This is what I did in response to his idea, which I thought was interesting.”  Wallace points to a series of 5-inch diameter circles, each of which enclose an encoded numbering system. The repetitive system reminds me of magnified molecular—protein building blocks. The puzzle of divisions and tessellated patterns also suggests fractal-like crystallizations.

Likening these shapes to a work’s “syntax” and to its “grammar,” Wallace now defines form in the language of a crystallographer, constituting permutations by numbers. Reminiscent of Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings, The ABCD's of Wallace’s new language expands from fundamental cell/lattice operations (in a collection of cubes, rectangles and circles) to figure forms, also algorithmic in character. The concept of the void in the earlier narrative work now engages the sensibility of man existing beyond the physical limits of the world.

If crystallizations represent the material and the void happening at once, these circular maps are abstract codes for how holes previously operated in Wallace’s paintings. Absolute numbers, a metaphor for infinity, connect “the void” to a territory of candor and freedom, a sort invisible protective zone.  Underpinning logic, his series of drawings leave superficial language behind. The concept of language is, rather, analogous to the processes of transformation. The formation of helicopters, soldiers or mammals bears no fixed relationship to the numbers, which compose them. Instead, the sensation of temporariness vivifies the kinetic information held in each form. The sequencing of numbers, where circles spiral around, exemplifies the materiality and rotational pull of the world around us.

(Text by Susannah Hays, Ph.D. Candidate)