In 1989, after almost five years of living and painting in New York City, John Wilcox returned to Texas. The move was prompted by his recent diagnosis of being HIV+. Confronting the challenge of navigating New York to secure his medical treatment and not knowing how long he had to live, Wilcox chose to return to North Texas where he had friends and family. Wilcox rented a small studio with large windows on the second floor of a former industrial building on 4101 Commerce Street. There he lived and worked for almost eight years before moving around the corner to a larger space, a former industrial building that also had a small sleeping loft and skylights, in 1998. This space at 824 Exposition, no. 9 is just a block away from the deco-style Esplanade of State and Texas Centennial Exhibition buildings in the Fair Park District of Dallas. John lived and worked in this space for fifteen years before his death. Several photographs capture the space as John lived and worked in it as well as how it was left after he died, with one of his unfinished works on the wall.
The creation of The Wilcox Space sprang from a suggestion made by sculptor and artist James Magee during a meeting with Barry Whistler, Rick Brettell and Jim in November 2012, months after Wilcox’s death. These three had known Wilcox for years and John’s brother, David, enlisted them to help consult about how best to proceed with Wilcox’s artistic estate. David had begun work on cataloguing and photographing all of Wilcox’s canvases as well as boxes of drawings and sketchbooks Wilcox had stored in an old barn in Denison, Texas. It was Magee, a longtime friend of Wilcox’s who mentioned he thought there should be a space for Wilcox’s works. Rick and Barry concurred immediately. In the months to follow the space was transformed with the help of Gary Cunningham, FAIA from a loft and studio into an installation space. Photographing Wilcox’s canvases and drawings continued while final plans were made for the renovation of the space.
Smudges and drops of paint still covered the cement floor from where Wilcox worked on canvases under the skylights. Gone, however, were the array of collected objects, the sparse furnishings, the dried and pressed leaves and flowers, the library, and Wilcox’s wide-ranging collection of contemporary art. What remained was a space for Wilcox’s work, the essence of who he was as an artist. With all the ephemera of a life lived removed, the space became a final ever-changing installation within the walls where Wilcox lived and painted; using the works he created to capture how he saw the world.
From April 2013 until July 2018 The Wilcox Space hosted six curated exhibitions of works from Wilcox’s oeuvre. The goal of these exhibitions was to provide a quiet, private space in which to sit with the works and enjoy them. Each of the exhibitions is documented in a volume in The Wilcox Series, a six-volume slipcase series published by Lucia|Marquand in Seattle, Washington in conjunction with The Ioannes Project in Boston and The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History at the University of Texas at Dallas. Information regarding each exhibition, the works shown and photographs of each installation are listed elsewhere on this website.