Obscuring the lines between the expressive and the decorative, Christopher Wool's Untitled composition from 1988 fundamentally represents the artist's dry sense of humor that challenges and upholds the tradition of abstract painting simultaneously. Comprehending the confines of the medium of painting which his modernist predecessors have pronounced "dead," Wool wryly chooses to paint in spite of these limitations. Choosing a seemingly ready-made design with his signature black and white alkyd house paint, the artist envelops the entire surface of the composition with his wrought-iron filigree motif, barring the viewer from entry into the archetypal "window to the world." By both embracing the rejected medium and utilizing the decorative pattern, Wool challenges the tenets of modernist painting, many of which have transitioned from the realm of the avant garde only to be absorbed through the process of commodification.
Affecting a highly recognizable pattern, Wool's composition also plays upon many of the principles of both minimalism and pop. In terms of pop art, Wool uses commonly understood and readily digested images, words and conventions in a mass-producible way, in a way mimicking Andy Warhol's factory model. At the same time, focusing on the repetition of an easily multiplied pattern through a methodical process serves to remove the personal finesse of the artist thereby recalling a minimalist tendency.
Executed just before the artist transitioned to his word paintings, the pattern painting Untitled possesses a pent-up aggression through the lack of access he provides the viewer. By symbolically denying entry into the work, Wool presents an incredibly bold message that pushes the viewer to understand the work from this distanced, removed way, reflecting the artist's relationship to both the medium and the art world itself.