new-york

Steve Wolfe

Whitney Museum of American Art

Steve Wolfe’s best-known works nod to painting, in that many of them sit on the wall, and to sculpture, in that they’re three-dimensional objects, which you might think either solid or hollow except that as exacting trompe l’oeil copies of classic books they imply that sealed inside them are composite, flexible physical structures and infinite worlds of verbal content. As artworks, of course, they’re strictly do not touch, and once you understand what each one is—not a much-thumbed copy of a favorite art book or novel but its simulacrum, dog ears, grime, and all, painstakingly modeled in materials like metal and wood, and printed, painted, and drawn in oils and inks—you may actually pull away a little, not wanting to fingerprint or even breathe on so careful a surface. The result is a simultaneous push/pull between the attraction of something apparently used and loved, something emitting

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