The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe Review

Tom Wolfe—as lofty, mocking and condescending as he can be, he is at least never boring.In The Painted Word, Wolfe takes his sharp and keen eye into the art world. In a Paul Revere-like-way, Wolfe implicitly warns in this long-form essay that “the art world has gone mad!” He observes artists, and the culturati surrounding them, prostrating to a new all-powerful God, Theory—without which, it is all but impossible to understand any piece of art. All the -isms, Wolfe says, like Surrealism, Cubism, Abstract Expression, or Late Modernism, all haul with them their own individualized Theory to subtly apotheosize the art to the status of divine enigma and thus proportionally elevate its market value.He covers a lot of history in a little amount of time, which can be head-spinning at times, but also brings a level of excitement and motion to a topic that people without much knowledge of art like me need to keep reading.This is a great little work of critique and history of contemporary art which serves as a proper introduction to a deeper learning about the relationship between art and theory. Wolfe’s opinions are entertaining and as always, an exemplar of fine non-fiction writing, but I, of course, want to form my own.

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