Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Story of Studio 2846: Part Five

This blog post is part of an ongoing series. Click to read Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four

Over the next fifteen months, Wallace worked daily to renovate all four stories of the 20,000 square foot building by hand. In 1992, the space was finally complete, with his studio and living space spanning the top two floors, and the other two floors occupied by a total of 17 rental spaces.

Once settled in his new space, Wallace set about planning his first opening. After losing the New York gallery, he felt strongly that he needed to take control of his own destiny. “I didn’t need to rely solely on the galleries to show my work for me anymore – I had a beautiful new space, perfect for its purpose. I could show my work myself, in a way that illuminates them fully.”

“I was one of the first artists in Chicago to show my work directly from my studio,” he remembers. “People in the industry said it couldn’t be done. As an artist, the most you could do then was to open a gallery with a group of other artists and rotate shows. Showing your own work just wasn’t accepted.”

Wallace sent out 100 invitations to people he knew in the gallery and museum community, as well as collectors, artists and friends in the city. Of those 100 invited, only 12 showed up. “I sold one piece. It was hard. Everyone told me, this is why you can't do this.”

Wallace pushed forward, determined. Twice a year he opened up his studio to show his work. Each time, a few more people showed. Word spread, and soon each opening attracted about 80 people. “At first they were mostly friends and my older collectors, but then word started to spread and artists I didn't know would show up, new collectors who had heard from someone else about the studio would come, and before I knew it, over a period of 10 years, we had over 400 people at each event. Sales got progressively better, it created its own energy.”

Patricia Barber, a successful jazz musician and friend of the artist was interested in purchasing one of Wallace’s pieces. As part of the sale, they figured out a trade, and she and her trio began to play at one opening each year on the studio’s baby grand. The event increased again in popularity. “They were becoming so large as to be time consuming and expensive to throw, not to mention being too hard to talk with everyone about the work. We had so many people we hadn’t invited showing up. It was getting to be too much.” 

“The interesting thing is that when I would open up the studio, I noticed that people really look at the work; they spend time to try and decipher the language of the paint. I look around and see people talking in front of the paintings, or they’ll approach me to ask questions. There’s a connection without pretense that all too often doesn't happen in a gallery setting, where people feel they have to act a certain way, where they feel intimidated or afraid. It was truly a gift to me”.

In 2005, Wallace held one more studio opening, before heading to Montana to set about beginning to build his studio there.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Sounds of the Studio

Enjoy this piece - Seriously Deep by Eberhard Weber - a track that Wallace has been listening to as he paints.

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Story of Studio 2846: Part Four

This blog post is part of an ongoing series. Click to read Part One, Part Two and PartThree

It was 1990 when Wallace purchased the building. The space was trashed, the plumbing and structure ravaged by years of neglect. Water leaked from the ceilings, pouring down the walls when it rained. But Wallace was in love. “It was truly remarkable. It felt right.”

“It was derelict. The windows were boarded up, there was no heat, there was no plumbing, it was trashed.” Still, on the night that he bought the building, Wallace wanted to stay. “In this big, huge, 20,000 square foot space, in the midst of such unrest. I slept peacefully, right through the night, and I woke up the next morning, and… it was as though I felt the building breathe. I think if I hadn’t bought the place it would have been demolished.”

Still to this day, in a couple of spots, it’s possible to make out the footprints caused by the daily pressure of the workers’ feet as they rocked back and forth, pulling screens for hours on end. It took Wallace sixteen full days of labor to clean up the hard rock maple floor. “To me, the concept that somebody just with their pressure, for hours and hours and hours of standing in the same place, actually wore their footprints into the wood, to me it is just… well it’s a testament to so many things.”

When pressed, Wallace explains, “Those illegal immigrants were working in such terrible conditions – yet they did their jobs – they put their heart and soul into working in the hopes of a better life down the road. I look at those footprints, sunken into the hard floors, and I know the countless hours of rocking back and forth, day after day, year after year, in the same spot, pulling paint through a screen, and breathing in those toxic fumes, praying that it was all going to work out in the end. In a way, that parallels my journey in this building too.”

“But those footprints also represent something else to me. They’re an extremely clear symbol of something I never wanted to become – a slave to someone else’s dream. I look at the floor and I remember that no matter how difficult the next task is, that it is my task and I am not owned or controlled by anybody else. I am not, day after day, rocking in the same place, making something for money to go into someone else’s pocket. It has kept me focused towards always being true to myself and my journey.”

Return soon to read the next installment of The Story of Studio 2846, or subscribe on the right to receive updates as they’re posted.

Monday, 7 January 2013

The Story of Studio 2846: Part Three

This blog post is part of an ongoing series. Click to read Part One and Part Two.

There was a receptionist behind a tempered glass partition. She looked up at them for a moment, “Mr. Krupp’s office is down the hallway to the left,” then looked back down at her crossword.

Wallace and his friend walked down to find the office, where Mr. Krupp welcomed them, evidently mistaking them for someone with a prior appointment. “We haven’t listed the building yet, but the price is firm. Would you like to take a look around?” Wallace agreed.

They toured each floor of the building with the owner. The place was trashed - boarded windows, no daylight, and no fresh air. One floor was filled with oil-driven sewing machines, a Latino woman hunched over each one, hard at work. At their feet, the floors were scorched where sparks from the electrical conduit had ignited the oil-soaked wood.

On the next floor up, Wallace remembers men pulling silk screens at rows upon rows of tables, stretching from the front wall to the back of the enormous space. There was paint everywhere, and a smell of turps and lacquer so strong that he felt heady walking in. “It was dreadful. A sweatshop. I knew I would have to completely gut the space. But the building had so much potential.”

They headed back down to the office, where Wallace explained to the owner “I’m not who you think I am, but I want to buy the building. I just need a couple of weeks to come up with the money.” Mr. Krupp said he didn’t care who bought the place, he was firm on the price and just needed to sell it.

Return soon to read the next installment of The Story of Studio 2846, or subscribe on the right to receive updates as they’re posted.

Thursday, 3 January 2013


During a bout of reorganization, Wallace unearthed this – his first painting!

“I started drawing from a very young age - I was 7 or 8. I remember that there was a little school competition, and the St. Louis Children’s Museum bought the piece for $25. My parents were so excited that they went to the museum and asked for it back - they thought it was so cool that a museum wanted my work. They kept that piece, and they framed it. As a result, of course, my work wasn’t a part of their collection! I think that’s hilarious.

It’s interesting to look at this in the context of my work today. It’s very surreal in a way.”