Christopher Wool (b. 1955)
signed, numbered and dated 'WOOL 2002 (P380)' (on the overlap); signed again, titled again and dated again 'WOOL 2002 Untitled (P380)' (on the backing board)
silkscreen ink and enamel on canvas
108 x 72 in. (274.3 x 182.9 cm.)
Painted in 2002.
Luhring Augustine, New York
Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
Van de Weghe Fine Arts, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Lot Essay

Christopher Wool's paintings conflate the techniques of gestural painting and the processes of printmaking thereby bringing together two of America's great contributions to art history--Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. Yet Wool's painterly gesture does not wholly (engage the heroics of Abstract Expressionism, indeed his marks have been called 'anti-gestures,') nor can one trace his debt to Pop back to the shiny world of consumer culture. Instead, Wool most often appropriates imagery from his own artistic output, marrying the immediacy of the artist's hand with the cool remove of mechanical and digital reproduction. Wool maintains his restrictive palette, yet nonetheless succeeds in creating dazzlingly complex paintings leading critic Jerry Saltz to recently name him "one of the more optically alive painters out there" (J. Saltz, "Hard Attack", Village Voice, December 8-14, 2004, p. 78).

To create the paintings in this series, Wool photographed his own artworks, earlier canvases that he had covered in loops of enamel spray paint, graffiti-like tags nuanced with blurs and drips. He often uses Photoshop to manipulate his imagery, enlarging and distorting the original image. He then silkscreened the now highly mediated source material directly onto the new canvas. Each painting necessitates four screens to cover the canvas; and in the case of Untitled, P380 Wool has left visible the four quadrants he used to screen the canvas. After the initial silkscreen Wool works intuitively, applying paint both traditionally as well as with a spray gun. Throughout this process of building up, Wool experiments with various forms of erasure. While the enamel is still wet, Wool uses a solvent-soaked rag to thin the paint and wipe it away. By dragging the still-wet enamel across the canvas he achieves soft washes of grisaille and by rubbing out the drying stains he leaves traces of earlier marks.

For many years Wool worked exclusively in black and white but here he has introduced a domestic paint roller to cover the canvas in with soft neutral chords. Wool has commented, "You take color out, you take gesture out-and then later you can put them in." (C. Wool, quoted in Birth of the Cool: American Painting from Georgia O'Keeffe to Christopher Wool, exh. cat., Kunsthaus Zurich, 1997, p. 34). Certainly this practice leads to a union of chaos and control, of gestural exuberance and calculated restraint. Speaking of his studio practice, he has said "Every painting for me in this space is an experiment. Rather than making my work technically perfect, I like to find my own way, although sometimes this approach can be frustrating. The way I paint is so much about throwing it up on the wall and looking at it later. I usually work on the top floor studio and then bring individual canvasses down to the fifth floor which I use as a kind of halfway house. That means my paintings are continually going back and forth until I feel finished with them. Sometimes this can take a month, sometimes a lot longer. That is what I find so stimulating. I never know how long each work will take. It simply has to evolve at its own pace. (C. Wool, quoted in M. Sanders, "Good on Paper," Another Magazine 10, Spring Summer 2006, p. 126.)

Throughout his career Wool has successfully argued for the ongoing validity of abstract painting: exploring its limits, expanding upon its possibilities, all while questioning what makes a picture. His subtle strokes and robust graphics caught in layers of opaque silkscreened inks and transparent films of paint collapse the pictorial strategies of painting and printmaking--in the process making Wool one of the most exciting artists working today.

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