Christopher Wool - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Luhring Augustine, New York; Private Collection; Sale: Christie’s, London, The CAP Collection, June 20, 2007, lot 12; Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Literature

    A. Bonnant, The CAP Collection, Switzerland, 2005, p. 315 (illustrated in color)

  • Catalogue Essay

    As the media of written, spoken and visual information all around us are constantly increasing, and advertising is increasingly invasive, the human being has become practically immune to this textual harassment, with the result that the impact of the mass of information that we receive is ultimately not very effective because it is quickly eliminated from the brain. (M. Paz, Christopher Wool, Valencia, 2006, p. 196).

    In Christopher Wool’s word paintings, the surface of the work is covered with various phrases, and in the case of the present lot, jokes and curses. The dark capital letters, painted with stencils and constructed with no spaces or punctuation, first appear incomprehensible and elusive. However, as the viewer slows down and deconstructs the text before him, the obscurity becomes legible.

    The austere simplicity of Christopher Wool’s black and white stenciled words and phrases produce a remarkable experience for the viewer. The aggression of the statement “If You Can’t Take A Joke You Can Get The Fuck Out Of My House” is difficult to decipher at first, as the individual letters and words are subsumed into a grid, commanding the reader to slow down in order to decode their meaning. As soon as the work is decoded, the text becomes a kind of shouted command, intensified by the capitalized and dark script.

    Wool’s organized phrases mimic the black and white pages of the printed word; however, here, he imposes breaks and ruptures on our ever-scanning vision. The intense blue enamel also confounds our attempts to reduce the word picture to the status of mere text. We are required to have restraint and patience in order to uncover the information before us.

    Once completed, the previously combative statement, albeit indirectly, appears as a joke. Ultimately, the message goads the viewer into wondering whether he or she is on the receiving end of the rhetorical ploy. Wool’s greatest success here is not the pursuit of any essential truth, but his ability to make the viewer aware of his assertion that text draws meaning not from its abundance, but from its profundity.


Untitled (F48)

Alkyd on paper.
39 1/4 x 26 in. (99.7 x 66 cm.)
Signed, titled and dated “Wool 1992 F48” on the reverse.

$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Contemporary Art Part I

12 May 2011
New York