Untitled

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  • Provenance

    Luhring Augustine, New York
    Richard Gray Gallery, New York
    Galerie Bastian, Berlin
    Blain Southern, London
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    Untitled (P 492), from 2005, is a beautiful example from the oeuvre of Christopher Wool, the seminal figure at the forefront of the new generation of the abstract tradition of the New York School. Having started his career with drip painting greatly inspired by Jackson Pollock, Wool plays a key role in reviving the abstract practice and further develops the medium of painting that was considered dead after Abstract Expressionism came to its descend. Much as Pollock and Willem De Kooning, Wool embraces the physicality of painting, making the canvas the prime transmitting mechanism of an active event, rather than expression of an object or a reproduction.

    Untitled (P 492), measuring more than 10 feet high, belongs to a large scale series of monochromatic works that has become the artist’s trademark. “Wool deploys size as a kind of weapon against those kinds of looking that would attempt to take his paintings. Largeness is rude here, an assault on vision… (Glenn O’Brien quoted in Christopher Wool, pp. 87-88) The monumentality of the work is overpowering, creating the strong lasting impact on the viewer. In Untitled (P 492), Wool employs the silkscreen technique to mechanically reproduce the image of his earlier work where he used a spray gun in order to achieve a rich painterly surface filled with movement. The paint is manipulated across with rags and then with help of brushes soaked with turpentine - this technique allows the artist to create atmospheric shades of gray continuously pinched with black lines, subsequently photocopied and printed onto the canvas. The fluidity of the painting and its theatricality is achieved through juxtaposing two opposite actions in one body of work – creation and destruction. The result is a highly expressive painting with no figurative references, reminiscent of Andre Masson’s Automatic Drawing of 1924, with no subject or composition in mind. Untitled (P 492) belongs to a series of works started by the artist in 2003 that marked a decisive break from his earlier paintings painted directly onto industrial aluminium. This transition in the use of support for his works from aluminium to canvas was a seminal change in direction his practice was heading and allowed the artist to re-engage the traditions of painting and continue with his exploration within the medium.

    The appropriation of industrial practices has become the key method of new generation painting and Wool has mastered it like no one else. Drawing on Andy Warhol’s mechanical silkscreen technique, later followed by his younger contemporaries like Wade Guyton and Kelley Walker, Wool has been creating the process-based paintings that embody today’s popular culture and current technology since the 1980s. The artist’s first widely acclaimed body of work was his bold black on white text paintings that were the chosen words and phrases were all-American mantras. Being open ended, the phrases did not convey a clear message but rather gave food for thought to the viewer which gave them a highly contemplative and poetic quality, which merges this body of work into the more abstract future series of paintings that the current lot belongs to.

    Unquestionably one of the most important painters working today, Wool has recently had his mid-career retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, the show that received mixed reviews – Wool is an artist with a distinctive style true to himself, whose work is either loved or hated. Jerry Saltz gave praise to the show and summarised it better than anyone else: "Wool’s paintings of blocky letters, words, and phrases; abstract graphic fields filled with erasures; and boxy geometries implausibly synthesize the gesturalism of mid-century Modernism—now out of style, semi-­forbidden—with cooler art from the age of mechanical reproduction. Think of his paintings as places where Warhol’s disaster, flower, and Rorschach paintings meet Pollock’s and de Kooning’s, all done in black mucoid goo. The results have made Wool, 58, among the most influential mid-career American painters." ('Saltz: Christopher Wool’s Stenciled Words Speak Loudly—and Not Everyone Wants to Listen', New York Magazine, 11 November 2013) Unsurprisingly, the venue for the retrospective was chosen to be the Guggenheim’s rotunda, perfectly suited for Wool’s predominantly black and white works. The choice of the city was clearly not accidental either, as New York with its punk rock scene is the great inspiration behind Wool’s work. As Saltz continues, “For me, Wool captures the ways New York looks, sounds, and smells in our time, much as Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings embody the city’s texture in the fifties. I see Wool creating new order out of all this chaos. I see little epiphanies and glean the same clashing, gritty, seemingly haphazard, abrasive, bludgeoning beauty that all of us who live in and love New York can’t live without.”

8

Untitled

2005
silkscreen ink on linen
264.2 x 198.1 cm (104 x 77 7/8 in.)
Signed, numbered, and dated “Wool, 2005, P 492” on the reverse of the backing board.

Estimate
£800,000 - 1,200,000 

sold for £1,314,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
psumner@phillips.com
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening

London Evening Sale 10 February 2014 7pm