A Tribute to Tom Wolfe. Author, art critic, and great thinker, died at age 88.
The art world, no...the whole world, lost a great man last week.
I only discovered Tom Wolfe's writings after I had worked in the art world for over a decade. I was forming very solid opinions about the art world, and art styles, that were contrary to popular opinion. Once, during a class I was teaching at the MCA, I told a group of high-schoolers that Contemporary Art was a visual aid for a philosopher's ideas rather than a visual work communicating on it's own. Therefore, you needed to know the whole story and read the artist's summary about the piece, in order to "get it". Yes, Felix Gonzalez-Torres's work is just a string of lights he probably spent 10 minutes buying at the hardware store. But when you read the story behind it, boy is it powerful! This lesson was met with great enthusiasm from my students and strong criticism from my peers.
So I was thrilled to discover Wolfe's work and his no fear approach to writing what he truly saw in the arts. Especially his thoughts on Modern Art: "Modern Art has become completely literary: the paintings and other works exist only to illustrate the text." Yes, it was nice to find someone who saw art the way I did at the time, and who could express it so much more eloquently than I. But primarily it was so refreshing to see someone stand up and call BS while still showing a deep respect and love for the art he was discussing. He will truly be missed, but the legacy he created will reach far into the future.