Monumental and authoritative, Christopher Wool's Untitled (W17), painted in 1990, reads like a brash imperative. The rawness in its order to the dog is reflected in the stenciled letters in which it is written. There is an open aggression in this insistent message, made all the more real by our all-too-human reflex to read the words as though they were spoken to us. By mentally digesting these letters, we become the objects of the order to run, we become the dog, we become objects of the 'speaker's' scorn. In another work echoed the pleading of a victim with its repetition of the word, 'Please'; in Untitled (W17), the 'voice' of Wool's message sounds almost psychotic in its written and repetitive insistence that we run. This is less See Spot Run than Deliverance.
There is a post-Pop intensity to the stenciled letters in Wool's Word paintings. With the same renegade authority as the graffiti message that inspired them originally--SEX LUV painted on the side of a while truck--this incitement first to read and then to run has a street power. This art is not the descendent of advertising as Pop was, but is rather the product of the disjointed writings of the urban landscape, the warnings, boasts, insults and territorial markers of graffiti. At the same time, the no-frills stenciling of the letters recalls Minimalism, especially the word works of Joseph Kosuth. However, where Kosuth's works were deliberately self-contained, hermetically sealed by the words that they formed, Wool's Untitled (W17) is rogue: it is a disjointed phrase that points to the ambiguity of language. On the one hand, this allows Wool to question the content of paintings, to question the narrative elements of art. Yet on the other hand, stripped of any context, the order to 'Run Dog Run' becomes surreal and unsettling, a sinister echo rendered incarnate in its functional yet brutal stencilled letters.