Schilderij: Cubism and Abstract Art

Interessante gedachten: waarom maken we modellen? Hoe ver moeten we gaan met het nabootsen van de werkelijkheid? Hoever kunnen we gaan met het maken van een model van de werkelijkheid. Wat is werkelijkheid en wat is een model? Begrijpen we de werkelijkheid beter na het maken van het model? Wellicht helpt de kunst een beetje bij het beantwoorden van al deze vragen.
Steve Wolfe heeft  een model (schilderij) gemaakt van een werkelijk boek dat de werkelijkheid (een tentoonstelling) heeft beschreven. Die tentoonstelling (werkelijkheid) uit 1935 geeft een overzicht (model?) van ontwikkelingen in de kunst…

The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 354:

Steve Wolfe is one of a number of contemporary artists who have directed their practice toward exacting, literal works that replicate an existing object. With varying degrees of similitude, these works pose as duplicates of the real.

Carefully placed in the perceptual gap between the illusory and the real, Untitled (Cubism and Abstract Art) is a precise lookalike of a worn and dog-eared copy of the exhibition catalogue by Alfred H. Barr, Jr., published in 1936, that became a cornerstone in the early history of modernism. Painstakingly handcrafted, it plays with absolute notions of true and false, reality and illusion. Installed frontally and upright on the wall, it presents itself simultaneously as a work of art and a book whose subject matter is art, reversing expectations of both. Despite its affinity with Marcel Duchamp’s readymades, Untitled (Cubism and Abstract Art) is far from a found object. Like readymades, it raises questions about where life ends and art begins, yet its handcrafted quality and use of artistic materials generate the paradox of appropriating something from the world while engaging the traditional language of art.

Steve Wolfe: I’d always enjoyed—even as a child—looking at books, and I would display them in my bedroom and look at them as artworks. I’ve been making sculptures using books as subject matter for about twelve years now.

Cubism and Abstract Art was an exhibition catalogue for a show held at the Modern in 1936, curated by Alfred Barr, Jr., and the diagram which illustrates the cover of the book was created by him, and it charts the evolution of abstract art in the early part of the twentieth century.

What you’re looking at inside the box is an object that has a paper jacket, as a real book would have a paper jacket, which is laminated onto canvas board and wood that have been joined with modeling paste. The brown background is hand–painted, the red band at the bottom was originally printed lithographically and then over–painted with oil paint. The diagram itself is done completely lithographically. The pages are created by painting the edges with oil paint and then dragging a very stiff brush across the wet paint and then stained later to give it an aged and discolored feel.

It’s three–dimensional, it’s created from sculptural material, but it also is composed of paper and oil paint, so it hovers somewhere between sculpture and painting. It’s as a close to an exact replication as I could make it, which is true of all my work, and it hangs on the wall, as a painting. I like the idea of it being a bit of both, or somewhere in between.

I’m hoping that when people view my work they see what’s, hopefully, a beautiful object. I hope that the aspect of craft is appreciated. But I also want them to jar something in maybe a collective memory or a collective experience. I know that not everyone has read everything that I’ve made, but I think that a fair number of people will be able to see a certain book and it will have been a part of their experience and that will bring an extra dimension to the experience of viewing the piece.


Steve Wolfe was born in Pisa, Italy in 1955 and lives and works in San Francisco, California. For the last twenty years, Wolfe has created objects and drawings of astounding craft and visual presence that investigate intersections among material culture, intellectual history, and personal and collective memory. Wolfe’s art represent 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. Tattered books and worn album covers are meticulously produced to convey the mark of time and handling, and often literally fool the eye on first inspection. The tears, creases, and basic wear point to human contact and become metaphors of enlightenment and culture.

You are not in New York to visit MoMA? Then visit “Steve Wolfe on Paper” April 2 – July 25, 2010, THE MENIL COLLECTION, 1515 Sul Ross Street , Houston, TX 77006

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