Christopher Wool (b. 1955)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Collection of Frances R. Dittmer
Christopher Wool (b. 1955)

Untitled

Details
Christopher Wool (b. 1955)
Untitled
signed and dated 'Wool 2004' (on the reverse); signed again and dated again 'Wool 2004'(on the overlap)
enamel on linen
96 x 72 in. (243.8 x 182.9 cm.)
Painted in 2004.
Provenance
Private collection, Stüttgart
Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2009
Special notice

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Lot Essay

In Christopher Wool's Untitled, abstraction dovetails with expressionist mark-making in a choreography of additive and subtractive gestures. The surface pulsates with the gritty zeitgeist of the 1970s streets of New York, a formative period for the artist. The trace of rough graffiti gestures and spray-painted scribbles, documented in his earlier photographic work, are layered in Untitled in a painterly dance. Wool draws on the dynamism of Abstract Expressionism, which he couples with an aesthete's approach to Minimalism in his pared-down choice of black and white shades. Simultaneously, the all-over composition of Wool's masterly painting draws on the legacy of Jackson Pollock's daring disregard for the traditional, central subject. The middle relative to the edges become irrelevant as the eloquent layering of Wool's interconnected forms draws one in. While the artist has inherited the legacies of Abstract Expressionism, his signature style of abstraction is purely his own. Wool's Untitled, is a particularly full, vivid example of the artist's intense, process-driven abstraction, one that encapsulates the very essence of the artist himself.

Process prevails in Wool's complex and elaborate surface. In fact, the artist is focused more on the process, the creative development of his gestures and impulses, than on the finished object. The immediacy of the gesture is instantly apparent. In many ways, Wool's venture into abstract painting parallels that of Jackson Pollock's both in the process-focused approach as well as in the all-over application. Through a medley of actions--screening, spraying, wiping--the artist delves beyond the flat picture plane to create a deeply nuanced surface. Similarly, for Wool, the application of enamel using a spray gun is more akin to drawing than it is to painting. It allowed him a direct engagement with the canvas that echoes the trace of his hand.

For Wool, the process of painting is inherently reductive. One discovers that, "each new set of lines is smothered in hazy veils of wiped gray, with further layers sprayed on top, to the point where distinguishing between the various imbrications becomes impossible. The antiheroic notion of mark--unmaking correlates with a conviction lying at the heart of Wool's oeuvre--that linear progress toward artistic mastery is a modernist relic" (K. Brinson, "Trouble is My Business," Christopher Wool, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2014, p.47). By abandoning a notion of "linear progress," Wool operates in a realm where erasure and creation become synonymous. Erasure allows him to document emotions of angst, indecision and uncertainty, which ultimately read as poetic.

In exploring the subtractive intricacies of Untitled, one immediately recalls Robert Rauschenberg's celebrated Erased de Kooning, 1953 (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) in which Rauschenberg daringly intervened with the master's creation, bucking authority and the sacristy of the art object. By challenging the very meaning of art and ownership, the process of transformation in creating an art object and what constitutes a finished work of art, Rauschenberg highlighted the seemingly subjective nature of an artwork. In fact, he underscored for the art world once again, a precedent that Marcel Duchamp set in 1917 regarding the concept that art is all about intention. Wool takes this precedent one step further. He carves out a space in which additive and subtractive gestures align; one in which seemingly chaotic lines, nebulous shapes and indistinct forms co-exist in aesthetic cohesion.

Wool's abstract paintings are rife with intention. He unravels and recoils the sinuous lines and deliberate bands while building the totemic, broad strokes both vertically and horizontally across the canvas. By confining the tonality of the picture to a black and white spectrum, Wool highlights the capricious swirls and anarchic marks. In fact, Wool builds his paintings with a remarkable balance of line and form. His masterful control of instinctive movements is beautifully captured in Untitled. Wool arrives at a painting that is so closely connected to the hand of the artist in each additive and subtractive gesture, that it becomes virtually indistinguishable from Wool himself. It is, without question, a superb illustration of the artist's abstract painting.

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