born Italy 1955,
active San Francisco
Untitled ( Vanguard / Cook’s / Sapporo / Durham’s / Campari Cartons ), 2001–2003
Cartons: oil and screenprint on archival cardboard with wooden armature; books: oil, screenprint, lithography, modeling paste, canvas board, paper, wood, 59 x 89.5 x 77.5
Purchase, New York Contemporary Art Acquisitions Committee of American Friends
of the Israel Museum
What appears to be books packed in cardboard cartons is in fact a set of elaborate, unique replicas of mass-produced items. The books are made of hollow wooden blocks, modeling paste, and linen tape. Each of their trompe-l’oeil covers, like the cartons, takes months to create using a variety of techniques, from silkscreen or lithographic printing to oil painting. Every time Wolfe works in a different way, painstakingly reproducing signs of time and handling, cigarette burns, creases, tears, on his faux books.
The choice of book titles is not arbitrary; it is a careful sampling of reading matter that influenced the artist in his formative years as a teenager, during the decade of the 1960s, and continues to engage him. Like any personal library, Wolfe’s selection is a kind of self-portrait, delineating his identity and revealing his spiritual and intellectual world.