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  • Provenance

    Luhring Augustine, New York
    Private Collection, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Michigan, DePree Art Center; San Jose Museum of Art; Belleair, Florida Gulf Coast Art Center, Independent Curators International Exhibition: Dark Decor, 10 January 1992 - 7 February 1993
    London, Inigo Philbrick, Christopher Wool, Mike Kelley Paintings on Paper, 8 February – 28 April 2016, pp. 35, 36, 37 (illustrated, p. 37)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Christopher Wool is one of the most prominent contemporary painters at work today. His pictures featuring either stencilled words or repeated patterns have become modern icons in their own rights. Painted in 1989, Untitled dates from the period when Wool was beginning to gain international recognition for his unique dismantling and reconstruction of the precepts and tenets of painting. By this time, his work had been shown in one-man shows both in New York and abroad, and he himself had been granted an artist’s residency at the American Academy in Rome; the same the year that Untitled was executed. More recently, Wool’s works have been celebrated in a number of exhibitions in prominent international museums, including a 2014 retrospective held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York which later travelled to the Art Institute of Chicago in his native city.

    Wool was brought up in Chicago, but moved to New York in the early 1970s in search of a vibrant avant garde artistic sphere. At the time when Wool had been an art student, much of the teaching was still dominated by artists who had been linked to Abstract Expressionism, a style that he sometimes respected but nonetheless rejected. Like his contemporaries and early admirers Jeff Koons and Richard Prince, Wool sought out his own means of expression over the years. For Wool, this ultimately involved a return to painting, creating works that intelligently dissected and explored the limitations of their own medium. This is certainly the case in Untitled, which features a floral motif repeated again and again across the surface: its figurative origin as an image of leaves and branches is repeated to the point of absurdity. It becomes instead an all-over pattern of forms which the viewer is forced to appraise on its own new terms. In this way, the floral pattern echoes the process that underpins his famous word paintings, where the letters are painted in such a way, with words often split from line to line, that their appearance tangles with their supposed meaning. This is exemplified in Untitled from the following year, now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, which is emblazoned with the words: ‘CATS IN BAG BAGS IN RIVER.’

    During the 1980s, Wool had been struck by the rollers used by landlords in New York for painting interiors, giving a false and supposedly luxurious impression of wallpaper. He himself adopted similar techniques, using rubber stamps and rollers to create works such as Untitled that probed the entire nature of painting. Ever the iconoclast, Wool was able to skewer the lofty concepts of Action Painting by creating pictures that bore visual similarities to his post-war American forebears, yet were rooted in the fabric of a degraded, punk-era New York. At the same time, using this found subject matter, Wool discovered, ‘an interesting friction generated by putting forms that were supposed to be decorative in such severe terms’ (Wool, quoted in C. Brinson, ‘Trouble is my Business’, pp. 35-51, C. Brinson, ed., Christopher Wool, exh. cat., New York, 2014, p. 38.)

    This was a seemingly natural development in Wool’s work from his first exhibited pictures, which featured layers of enamel upon aluminium sheets. When he showed those in 1986, only three years before creating Untitled, the critic Colin Westerbeck would identify the tension between the epic and the domestic that underpinned those earlier works, commenting that they were ‘a cross between a Jackson Pollock and a Formica countertop’ (C. Westerbeck, ‘Christopher Wool’, Artforum, Vol. 25, No. 1, September 1986, p. 139.) As Westerbeck continued, ‘the aspiration here is to span the distance… between Expressionism and Minimalism.’ This is also the case in Untitled: looking at this work, the viewer is immersed within the lace-like intricacy of the patterns that cover the surface of the almost metre-high sheet of paper. There are knowing echoes of Jackson Pollock in the rivulets that form the stems and leaves of the repeated motif.

    Despite this, Wool defiantly obstructs any hints of sensuality, insisting upon the viewer’s awareness that the pattern has been applied using a form of stencil, repeating the motif through an almost mechanical technique, removing that emphasis on the brushstroke or the artist’s mark that was so vital to so much twentieth-century painting. Using a technique derived from painter-decorators rather than painters, Wool has made a pattern which is replicated across the entirety of the surface, often with slight variations in the density of the ink or unevenness of its application. He deliberately undermines the expressive potential of the visual language of painting, resulting in an image that is instead largely inscrutable, yet which upon closer inspection reveals teasing glimpses into the actions and movements of its creator, resulting in a complex and unresolved game of feints and veils. Wool presents the floral pattern in such a way that it becomes a form of barrier rather than a window, recalling the ironwork fences echoed in some of his paintings from the period. In this way, the artist ensures that his work remains intriguingly opaque, a continuing and enticing mystery. As John Caldwell has written:
    ‘There is no secure sense of what Wool’s paintings mean. They are uniform, deliberate, absolute, and masterful, but entirely resistant to one’s natural search for meaning, which they seem to deny’ (John Caldwell, quoted in C. Brinson, ‘Trouble is my Business’, pp. 35-51, C. Brinson (ed.), Christopher Wool, exh. cat., New York, 2014, p. 35.)

  • Catalogue Essay


    成長於芝加哥,伍爾在1970年早期遷居至紐約,在當地感受到活躍的前衛藝術創作氣息。當他還在學校的期間,遇到的老師多受到抽象表現主義影響,他本身對於這個藝術風格表示尊重,卻仍然感到排拒。如同他早期所欽慕的同輩藝術家傑夫・昆斯及理查德・普林斯,伍爾多年來試著探尋屬於自己藝術表達方式;而對他來說,終於在他回歸到繪畫時找到了答案,進而創作出能精妙剖析並探索繪畫這個媒材本身限制的作品。《無題》此作便提供了最佳佐證,花草的圖案佈滿了整件作品,無窮無盡地重複著葉子和樹枝的圖像,圖案本身具象的根源被重複到近乎荒謬的程度。然而,它卻也被轉化成了一個整體的模式,迫使觀者用這個全新角度去重新評估及審視。透過這種方式,在此的花草圖飾也呼應了伍爾著名的文字繪畫,文字在他的畫作中往往被分行而打斷,文字在畫中所被呈現的拆解,因而和本身所具備的意義產生了一種糾結。這在《無題》創作後的下一年的作品亦再次相互佐證,該畫作上面寫著「貓在袋子裡 袋子在河裡」,那件作品則為紐約現代美術館典藏。

    在1980年代,紐約當時許多房東愛用刻有圖紋的滾筒刷來漆牆,製造出一種好像在室內鋪上壁紙般華麗的幻覺,伍爾深深為此所著迷,進而也發展出類似的技法,以橡皮章及滾筒刷創作出像是《無題》等系列作品,探究繪畫的整體本質。儘管是個反傳統的藝術家, 伍爾卻能在批判行動繪畫崇高理念的同時,創造出與美國戰後藝術前輩相似之視覺元素的繪畫,然而,又同時與紐約頹靡的龐克時期接軌。此外,伍爾也發現,在使用這個現成物主題時,「將理當是裝飾性的元素放在用嚴格形式的框架裡,便形成了一種有趣的衝撞。」(摘錄自伍爾,C・布林遜所著《找麻煩就是我的本業》,第35-51頁,C・布林遜編輯,《克里斯托弗・伍爾》展覽畫冊,紐約,2014年,第38頁)。

    伍爾藝術生涯裡首件展出的作品是以層層的瓷漆畫在鋁片上,從那件作品開始,演進至今似乎也是一個極為自然的發展過程。當他在1986年展出那些作品時,也就是在創作《無題》三年之前,藝評家柯林・衛斯特貝克曾評論道,他早期作品中存在那種介於史詩感與家居感之間的衝突張力,就像是「傑克遜・波洛克與富美家品牌的流理檯跨界的組合」(C・衛斯特貝克,「克里斯托弗・伍爾」,Artforum,第25編,第1號, 1986年9月,第139頁)。衛斯特貝克又評:「他在此的意圖是想要跨越一種距離…在抽象表現主義與極簡主義之間。」《無題》所要呈現的也極為相近:當觀者凝視此作,立即被像蕾絲般纖細的圖案所縈繞,那圖案完全覆蓋著近乎一公尺高的紙張,而不斷重複的枝葉裡,也不難看出其中呼應著傑克遜・波洛克的繪畫技法。


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signed and dated 'Wool '89' on the reverse
enamel on Suzuki paper
94 x 61 cm. (37 x 24 in.)
Executed in 1989.

HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2018