Jack Wolfe, 1924-2007
From the establishment perspective, Jack Wolfe was one of the most promising young artists of the 1950’s. He was recognized as such by, among other organizations, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Carnegie Institute, The American Federation of Arts, and The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. He was alternately described as an American inheritor of French cubism; a logical descendant of Picasso; a counterpart to the abstract expressionists; and a synthesizer of diverse formalist traditions. Many of his early works, for example his portrait of Lincoln, “Witness - 1962,” were acclaimed by critics and collectors, and the renowned art historian Meyer Shapiro called his work “significant for the history of 20th century American art.” However, largely for personal reasons, he stopped showing in commercial galleries and withdrew from the art scene. Since his renunciation of these “career” aspects of his work, until his death in 2007, he continued to paint in his studio in Stoughton MA, creating a diverse and substantial body of work largely free from the influence of commerce. From the outset, he eschewed the entrenched stylistic divisions characterizing the art scene of the 50’s and 60’s. He explored abstract, political and figurative modalities, stating that he perceived continuity between these aspects of his oeuvre. His early work often responded to themes in the abstract expressionist and hard-edged schools of the times, synthesizing expressive brushwork with a mathematical attention to form; however, he moved beyond many of the confines of current trends, experimenting with dramatically shaped canvases beginning in the late 1950’s and ultimately developing grand scale works notable for their dazzling and original displays of color.