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Branden Wallace spends his days as a designer and graphic artist at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, and his evenings and weekends creating works of art. Now, Wallace’s two worlds have come together in the firm’s lobby at 1111 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. In a new exhibit called “Diction,” Wallace has created sculptures by folding the pages of books into patterns and using them as building blocks for pieces that often literally end up on pedestals. “Diction” is one of three sculptural exhibitions currently featured (until March 10) in Eleven Eleven Sculpture Space, the gallery in the lobby of the Morgan Lewis building. Wallace, who studied at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, works in the firm’s applications support department. “What I set out to do was let the book stand on its own,” Wallace says. “I wanted to leave the words, the pages, but obscure the text. So that is what is left — the book and what that means to the individual viewer.” Wallace says he aims to “celebrate the book.” He has an artisan’s appreciation for the lost skills of bookbinding. He uses old volumes for his raw material, and though the patterns of folded pages obscure the text, in most cases the books remain intact. His choice of books and each work’s title give the viewer some help in interpreting the sculptures. For example, the magisterial “Complete Works of Charles Dickens” offers 30 volumes paired back-to-back to form a tower of 15 circles. And then there’s the work using multiple copies of John Grisham’s The Firm, erected into a pillar. Wallace says he was inspired to create the piece by a light sculpture in Morgan, Lewis’ art collection that reminds him of Brancusi’s “endless tower sculptures.” In “Maraud,” the works of Anne Rice are folded and arranged into an ornamental column secured by a steel exoskeleton. A gestural deftness is on display in single-volume pieces such as “Scar,” in which the central pages of Augusten Burrough’s memoir, Running with Scissors, are folded to create a jagged indentation rising across the body of the text. The work “Bound,” using Memoirs of a Geisha, is partially open with its pages folded in half and looped with a decorative black ribbon atop a Japanese wooden pillow. Possibly the most autobiographical piece of the exhibition is “Pennon,” which consists of strips of color-printed pages arranged into a pennant attached to a twisting spine. Subtitled “Flagging My Mistakes,” the work was created out of work product of unsuitable quality, taken from Wallace’s job at Morgan, Lewis. Wallace admits he gets a certain thrill every time he sees his work in the lobby. “I take the long way into work just so I can walk through it all. If I could spend more time with it, I would.”
Robert Loper is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.

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