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A Century of Art: The Gerald Fineberg Collection


signed, titled, inscribed and dated '(P314) UNTITLED WOOL 2000' (on the stretcher)
silkscreen ink on linen
90 x 60 in. (228.6 cm. x 152.4 cm.)
Executed in 2000.
Luhring Augustine, New York
Eleni Koroneou Gallery, Athens
Private collection, Greece
Private collection, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2013
Athens, Eleni Koroneou Gallery, Christopher Wool, June-July 2000.

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Lot Essay

Continuing his examination of painting through alternative modes, Untitled is an explosive example of Christoper Wool’s work with visual archives and mechanical reproduction. Marking a new phase in his career, these paintings build upon his much-lauded roller and word paintings in the way that they use found subjects and objects to create work that departs from issues of artistic originality. Whereas the earlier pieces used stencils and pre-made printing rollers to create text and patterns set upon a white ground, Untitled pulls from Wool’s own history while perplexingly separating the painter from himself. "[Wool] would take a finished picture, use it to create a silkscreen, and then reassign the image wholesale to a new canvas. Simple as this transfer might seem, it effects a distinct metamorphosis… This strategy of self-appropriation marked a new phase in Wool’s practice in which original mark-making, tentatively permitted, coexists with works that deny the hand entirely” (K. Brinson, “Trouble is My Business”, in Christopher Wool, exh. cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (and travelling), 2013, p. 46). The source materials are the direct result of the artist taking up paint and applying it to a surface, but once reproduced, rotated, and reapplied, they begin to break down and become layered signifiers of the artist’s work rather than retaining a one-to-one relationship between Wool and the finished product.

Wool’s detached acts of painting still suggest a strong sensibility —a Warholian stylistic mark of a personality that impiously emerges through rendered anonymity.(B.W. Ferguson, “Patterns of Intent: Christopher Wool,” Artforum, September 1991).

Although they might at first resemble gestural spatters of paint or errant droplets across a blank page, the sheer size of Untitled creates a disconnect between the depicted forms and their connection to chance happenings in the studio. The forms have been extracted from Wool’s repertoire, enlarged, and used to make a screenprint which allows the artist to create multiples from his original effort. One notes throughout the crisp cut of a straight edge that denotes the end of the screen. These flat borders, notable in the upper left and lower right corners where the artist seems to have employed the same screen, create a counterbalance to the compositionally loose action of the brush inherent to these types of marks. The chaos of sprayed paint is captured and repurposed as Wool doubles his print with a slight offset in the top right to create an optical hum that also makes the viewer more aware of his methods. By leveraging mechanical processes, Wool takes the artist’s mark as a symbol of action or spontaneity that can be reproduced while retaining the connections to vigor and movement so key to the Abstract Expressionists that came before.

Throughout history, artists have returned time and again to the description of their creative process. Taking to task the inimitable gesture of Modernism, works like Roy Lichtenstein’s Brushstrokes and the mimetic doubling of Robert Rauschenberg’s Factum I and Factum II set the stage for an increasingly pointed critique of authenticity and the artist’s mark. Employing some of the techniques favored by Pop artists, Wool continued this investigation by using silkscreens made from past drawings and then wholly rearranging them on a new canvas. Curator Anne Pontégnie notes, “The silkscreen process allows Wool to play with scale, repetition, and rhythm. At the same time, it makes all of his work available as a repertory of form. At the heart of his corpus, the question of originality has entirely disappeared. Thus the same form… can be represented it its own right, then reproduced by screen-printing without affecting its ‘status’” (A. Pontégnie, “At the Limits of Painting” in H. W. Holzwarth, ed., Christopher Wool, New York 2008, p. 314). Pulling from his own personal archive of sketches and other works, Wool introduces tell-tale markers of reproduction juxtaposed with the original energy of his source.

From the beginning of his now decades-long career, Wool has been fascinated by the creation of painting through non-traditional methods. Often looking to graffiti, street art, and reproducible media for inspiration, his breakthrough series of word paintings employed stencils to create word-based compositions on white-painted aluminum. “Wool’s detached acts of painting still suggest a strong sensibility —a Warholian stylistic mark of a personality that impiously emerges through rendered anonymity” (B.W. Ferguson, “Patterns of Intent: Christopher Wool,” Artforum, September 1991). The very lack of the artist’s hand in his work has become something of an ironic calling card since Wool began painting in the 1980s. In Untitled, the viewer may think for a brief moment that something has changed, that we will now be witness to a burst of painterly energy from the New York artist. Instead, noting the unmistakable moiré pattern of the silkscreen, one begins to recognize doubled images, reapplications, and the specific layering of various elements that result in the final composition. Masterfully combining a more conceptual investigation of creative signifiers and authorship with the immediate impact of action painting, Wool continues to push at the edges of his art form in an effort to fully explore its limits.

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