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Los Angeles County Museum of Art Presents the First Museum Exhibition of Artist Steve Wolfe
Untitled (Study for Mumm/Jose Cuervo Cartons), 1994. Oil, screenprint, lithography and modeling paste on paper. 23 5/16 x 26 1/4 in. Collection of Lawrence Luhring. © 2009 Steve Wolfe.

LAS ANGELES, CA.- —The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents Steve Wolfe on Paper, the first solo museum exhibition of artist Steve Wolfe. For the last twenty years, Wolfe has created objects and drawings of astounding craft and visual presence that explore the intersections between material culture, intellectual history, and personal and collective memory. The exhibition focuses on works on paper—some that are purely drawn, but most of which combine aspects of drawing, painting, collage and printmaking.

The title, Steve Wolfe on Paper, selected by Wolfe himself, refers to the artist’s technique and subject (Wolfe’s work often depicts paper in the form of books) and to his commitment to the material and the handmade, a particularly compelling issue given the current endangered status of the printed word. LACMA’s presentation—the final stop on the exhibition’s national tour—is now on view through February 20, 2011.

While Wolfe’s work is represented in LACMA’s permanent collection with Untitled (Study for Sketchbook 8F) (1990) and several works on view come from private Los Angeles collections, this exhibition is one of the most comprehensive presentations to date in this city of this important artist’s work.

Wolfe’s art represents objects of cultural mass dissemination—books and records. Rather than the ordinary depiction of books on canvas or another two-dimensional framing device, Wolfe’s painted objects employ the tradition of trompe l’oeil, the trick of the eye. ―The difference here between re-presentation and representation is that trompe l’oeil seeks to depict the subject as it really looks in two or three dimensions,"said Franklin Sirmans, exhibition curator. ―This is seen not only as a demonstration of craft and skill but, more importantly, as a tribute to the object and its multitude of meanings.

In the twenty-four works on view, tattered books and worn albums are meticulously recreated to convey the marks of time and handling. They often fool the eye upon first inspection. The creases, tears and basic wear point to human contact and become metaphors of enlightenment and culture.

What appear to be old books, covers, and vinyl records (viewers recognize and delight in Wolfe’s ―subjects: such as Candide, The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ―Do You Believe in Magic, and Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar) are in fact objects made from modeling paste, screen printing, graphite, and various other techniques. The artist’s transformation of these common objects requires the viewer to re-think what they mean as such, placing emphasis on craft and the handmade to transform the common into the uncanny and the sublime.

While indebted to Pop Art, Wolfe’s optical strategy manifests an updated approach to craft. Although the patina of time is crucial to Wolfe’s art, perhaps what is most interesting about the collection of work is its sense of autobiography. Book covers have been the primary subject of Wolfe’s art and his renderings of particular covers; they relate to moments in his life and may be seen as self-portraits of the artist as well as of his generation.

Born in Pisa, Italy, in 1955, Wolfe lives and works in San Francisco, California. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, he was a recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award. Wolfe’s work has been widely collected by prominent public and private collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Art, The Menil Collection, Houston, and the Dallas Museum of Art.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art | Steve Wolfe on Paper | Los Angeles |

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