In 1947 the painter Steve Wheeler (1912– 1992) published Hello Steve, a book of his own silk-screen prints. Writing under the pseudonym “Adam Gates,” Wheeler contributed an essay on the work that, once read, is not easily forgotten. Although there is plenty to learn about his art from the essay “Face to Face,” it is less significant for what it says than for how it is said. Jargon like “dura-spatial” and axioms like “assertion bows to soliloquy” make it tough reading; Wheeler’s chip-on-the-shoulder tone doesn’t help either. Yet “Face to Face” is a vivid transcription of the work. Wheeler’s prose is simultaneously portentous and slangy, irritable and joyous, well-reasoned and over-the-top. And it is driven: “A square of cement, twenty thousand buildings, sixty thousand windows, nine hundred and ninety zillion bricks, one I-beam, a figure, everything...


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