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Christopher Wool (b. 1955)
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Christopher Wool (b. 1955)

Untitled (F54)

Christopher Wool (b. 1955)
Untitled (F54)
signed, inscribed and dated 'Wool 1992 F54' (on the reverse)
alkyd on paper
41¾ x 27 7/8in. (106 x 71cm.)
Executed in 1992
Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne.
Graz, Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum und Künstlerhaus, Pittura-Immedia. Malerei in den 90er Jahren, March-April 1995 (illustrated in colour, p. 154).
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Lot Essay

Christopher Wool once said he was 'more interested in how to paint it than in what to paint'. In his signature white canvases crowded with black block letters, Wool chose text as a vehicle for his reflections on painting. By painting letters, he achieves a self-referentiality that allows him to concentrate on the act of painting itself rather than on any subject. A former studio assistant to Joel Shapiro, Christopher Wool is part of the group of subversive, rule-breaking artists that emerged in New York in the early 1980s, alongside others such as Jeff Koons.

In Christopher Wool's text-based paintings, the letters composing single words or expressions are stacked in a way that ignores syntax in an all-over composition. Although the words have all the attributes of a highly readable message, with clear large stenciled black block letters on a white background, one has to stop and concentrate in order to decipher the message... with ultimately ambiguous results. In Untitled from 1992, the viewer reads the words 'If you can't take a joke, you can get the fuck out of my house,' a harsh, direct and puzzling statement. Wool's irreverence towards syntax meets his apparent lack of respect for the viewer. This message suggests an offence was made. We have just been insulted by our host and we have no choice but to laugh or leave. But what was the joke?

This direct address contrasts with the impersonal, clean look of the stenciled block letters. However, Christopher Wool jeopardizes the ready-made look of his work by leaving odd drips of paint across the otherwise pristine white background, making it appear that these words are an ultimatum painted onto a blank surface, the tantalizingly incomprehensible writing on the wall.

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