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The Whitney to Present First In-Depth Look at Artist Steve Wolfe's Works on Paper
Untitled (Mary Poppins), 1993. Oil, enamel, lithography, and graphite on board , 16 3/8 x 15 7/8 in. (41.6 x 40.3 cm) Private Collection.

NEW YORK, NY. For more than two decades, Steve Wolfe (b. 1955) has created objects and drawings that explore the intersections between material culture, intellectual history, and personal and collective memory. This exhibition, Wolfe’s first solo museum show, comprises thirty works drawn from the artist’s innovative body of works on paper, some purely drawn, but many combining drawing, painting, collage, and printmaking. A collaboration between the Whitney Museum and the Menil Collection, the exhibition is co-organized by Carter Foster, the Whitney’s curator of drawings, and Franklin Sirmans, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Menil. Steve Wolfe on Paper opens September 30 and runs through November 29, 2009, in the Anne & Joel Ehrenkranz Lobby Gallery. The show will then travel to the Menil Collection, Houston, April 2 – October 31, 2010.

Working in the tradition of trompe l’oeil, Wolfe makes pieces that often quite literally fool the eye on inspection. What appear to be tattered books, worn covers, and used vinyl records are in fact objects made from modeling paste, screen printing, graphite, and various other techniques, meticulously produced to convey the mark of time and handling. The tears, creases, and basic wear point to human contact. This exhibition focuses on Wolfe’s works on paper, and “Steve Wolfe on Paper,” the title selected by Wolfe himself, is not only a double entendre referring to both his technique and subject—since Wolfe’s work often depicts paper in the form of books—but also implies Wolfe’s commitment to the material and the handmade in the face of the electronic age and the potential obsolescence of the culture of the book and the written word. Book covers have been the primary subject of Wolfe’s art and his renderings of particular covers relating to moments of his life may be seen as a self-portrait of the artist and of his generation.

As Carter Foster, Whitney curator and co-organizer of the exhibition, explains: “Wolfe invests his creations with both personal history and personal touch: an almost erotic representation of the fact that one can fall in love with that which is ephemeral (ideas, music). Wolfe’s transformation of common objects requires the viewer to re-think what they mean as such.”

Steve Wolfe was born in Pisa, Italy, in 1955 and lives and works in San Francisco, California. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Wolfe has been the recipient of American Academy of Arts and Letters Award (2000). Wolfe exhibited most recently at the Whitney as part of 2D→3D (2007).

Whitney Museum of American Art | Steve Wolfe | Menil Collection | paper |

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