Nancy Wolf. American, born 1942

Her work is all of these and more: oversize - haunting - individuality - dignity - multiplicity - metaphoric - ambiguous

Artist Statement



born 1942 Easton, PA

1964 BFA Rhode Island School of Design
1963-4 (European Honors Program)

Public Collections
Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, FL
Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX
Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington DC
National Museum of American Art, Washington DC
Sallie Mae Student Loan Marketing Association, Washington DC

The Washington Post
December 6, 2013

D.C. gallery shows: Landscapes of Unease, 'Suprene Magnetic,' December NY/DC

Nancy Wolf, Pilgrimage, at Marsha Mateyka, on artline
Pilgrimage, 1992. acrylic on canvas, 35 x 50"

Nancy Wolf appreciates the clean lines and simple forms of Bauhaus-style architecture. But she's an artist, not an architect, so she has to ask: Where do people and tradition feature in the International Style's attempt to cleanse cities of their historic character?

It's a question she has been asking for 40 years, as "Nancy Wolf: Landscapes of Unease" demonstrates. The Marsha Mateyka Gallery retrospective begins with 1972's "The Underpass," in which gaps in an immaculate grid reveal unruly pedestrians below. It ends with 2013's "High Line/Low Line," in which centuries of architectural features promenade on Manhattan's railway-turned-park, past blank high-rise facades.

During the period these detailed drawings were made, Wolf lived mostly in New York, but also in Washington's "new Southwest" and Nigeria, and she traveled extensively in Asia. All those places are reflected in her work, as are baroque Italy and Le Corbusier's severe plans for France. "Perfect Order" shows a city divided into zones so rigidly that it's even more absurd than the architect's scheme to replace Paris with a series of identical tower blocks.

Often, Wolf seems bemused or playful, as when she contrasts traditional Nigerian geometric motifs with modernist and industrial structures. But sometimes she's regretful or even angry: "The Past Has No Future" shows a leaning New York skyscraper that's supported by the facades of the many 19th-century beauties demolished to make room for it.

Among the most trenchant drawings are those that depict a rapidly changing China. Traditional buildings and layouts, as well as the landscapes of venerable Chinese painting, are displaced by culturally unrooted edifices such as Rem Koolhaas's CCTV headquarters in Beijing.

"Reconstruction/Deconstruction" places the CCTV oddity amid a vast archaeological dig, like the one that yielded the Terra Cotta Warriors.

Wolf works mostly in pencil, rendering both modernist lines and classical curves with extraordinary precision. But occasionally she incorporates color, using gouache, acrylic and colored pencil. The astonishingly complex "Pilgrimage" contrasts old and new, specific and general: Pilgrims wander elevated causeways above skyscrapers outlined in bright hues against black, on a quest toward architectural variety rather than monomaniacal modernism.

Mark Jenkins


Weil, Rex. "Nancy Wolf", Marsha Mateyka, Washington, DC, Artnews, Summer 2008

Lawrence, Sidney. "Nancy Wolf at Marsha Mateyka", Art in America, May 2008

Barbiero, Daniel. "Nancy Wolf", The New Art Examiner, May. 1988

Blake, Peter. "No Need for Words", Interior Design pp. 228-29, November. 1988

Danikian, Caron le Brun. "Painter Printmaker Looks at Future Space", The Christian Science Monitor, August 4. 1973

Forgey, Benjamin. "Demolition Job: Artist Nancy Wolf's Dynamite Views of Modernist Architecture", The Washington Post, Sept.21, pp. C1,C7. 1996

Forgey, Benjamin. "Wolf's Building Sense of Anger", The Washington Post, C2, March 19. 1988

Lewis, Jo Ann. "The Art of Building", The Washington Post, G3, July. 1974

Lewis, Jo Ann. "Creating a New City with the Oddball Help of 16 Washington Artists", The Washington Magazine, p.106, Nov. 1975

Lewis, Jo Ann. "Scaling Modern Architecture", The Washington Post, B7, December 31. 1981

Lewis, Jo Ann. "Wolf, Moving On", The Washington Post, Galleries, C2, April 20. 1985

Long, Andrew. "Openings", Art & Antiques, March 1999, p.36,38 1999

McCoy, Mary. "Wolf's Ominous Building Blocks", The Washington Post, Galleries, C2, March 30. 1991

McWilliams, Martha. Washington City Paper, p.72, Oct. 14. 1994

Mulbetsch, Marilyn. "Nancy Wolf Paints Her Case", Boston Globe, p.71, July 29.1973

Power, Mark. "Works on Paper at Mateyka", The Washington Post, Galleries, C2, November 27 1986

Sherman, Harvey E."Nancy Wolf: An Art of the Emotional Landscape", Utopian Studies, 9,1, pp. 173-83 1998

Tucker, Patrick. "Deconstruction Sites", Museum and Arts Washington p. 73, March/April 1991

Tucker, Patrick. "Soho Suite: A Response to Postmodern Architecture", Pulpsmith p.26, vol. 8. 1989

Catalogues and Publications:

1996 Franck, Karen, "Nancy Wolf, Hidden Cities Hidden
Longings",monograph, published by Academy Editions,London.
1994 essay, "An Artist's Perspective on Type", Ordering Space
Types in Architecture, edited by Karen C. Franck and Lynda
Schneekloth, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York.
1988 "Nancy Wolf, Soho Suite: A Response to Postmodern
Architecture", introduction by Wolf Von Eckardt, catalogue
published by Marsha Mateyka Gallery, Washington, DC.

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