Saturday, June 11, 2016

REMEMBRANCE: Steve Wolfe, sly painter of record labels and book jackets

Steve Wolfe, 1955-2016

This morning I noticed the obituary of painter Steve Wolfe in the NY Times. I admit that I had never heard of him, but I was immediately captivated by his trompe l'oeil paintings of iconic book jackets and record labels. They are somewhat reminiscent of Andy Warhol's Brillo boxes and soup cans, but are crafted with much greater detail and good humor. (A digression: Trompe l'oeil literally means "to fool the eye" and is generally defined as a painting or design intended to create the illusion of a three-dimensional object -- sounds like a certain other Trompe, doesn't it?)

Part jokester, part illusionist, Wolfe reveled in the confusion his work engendered.
Above: A "well-worn copy" of J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories
Below: An even more ragged copy of the Streetcar Named Desire dustjacket

Using oil, ink transfer, modeling paste (to add paper-thin dimensionality), screen printing (for the text), linen, wood and paper, Wolfe created images of book covers that included every detail and imagined "signs of wear", making it difficult for a viewer to believe that the copy is not a real book.

Mondrian (2001) and
Manifestoes of Surrealism (1988)

Study for The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas painting (2004-5)


Wolfe was an ardent aficionado of the long-playing record albums of his youth.
He occasionally turned his hand to replicas of LP jackets and inner labels, in which even the individual grooves on the records were painstakingly reproduced. Right: 
The Beatles' Revolver album.

Mr. Wolfe's art is included in the collections of major international museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. A solo exhibition of his work has traveled to The Menil Collection in Houston 
and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

For more information about the artist, link to
Steve Wolfe’s Superflat Simulacra   or  Steve Wolfe, a Painter of Books by Their Covers, Dies at 60

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