Sparse and stripped of imagery, color and seemingly, meaning, Christopher Wool’s bold and graphic Untitled: THE SHOW IS OVER takes the nihilistic pronouncement of the Russian revolutionary Vasily Rozanov and transforms it into a formal statement that takes a critical look at past movements and the medium of painting itself. Wool’s signature word paintings address the history of Western paintings, calling into question the medium’s efficacy as a vehicle for contemporary artistic expression. The stark letters in black and white and the deliberate randomness of spacing and punctuation imbue the work with an unexpected exuberance. The medium and the procedure both align and contrast with the stenciled grid pattern, while the optical effect of letters randomly spaced rivet the senses and disrupt the focus from the chosen words and their meaning.
THE SHOW IS OVER highlights what for Wool were the relevant questions for a young painter at the edge of postmodernism: could there still be meaning in the act of painting? The answer is at first ‘No’ and then perhaps ‘Yes’; the work inspires a continual debate within itself. In this iconic work, Wool questions as he celebrates the tension between act and image, high art and the simulacrum of the real. THE SHOW IS OVER serves as a critical question of the painterly act, yet brings it back from the edge of extinction; it’s an increasingly complex exploration of the medium while celebrating it as a means of expression. The paradox is as revolutionary and exuberant as the defiant words he borrowed.
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