Christopher Wool - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 10, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    The Bernier/Eliades Gallery, Athens

  • Catalogue Essay

    Beginning his career in the mid 1980’s, Christopher Wool has produced paintings, prints and photography that confirm and redefine our expectations of the art object. While artists of the 1960’s and 1970’s had all but abandoned painting in favor of performance, conceptualism, sculpture and earthworks, the 1980’s witnessed its return. Wool’s early production employed similar techniques to those of his Pop Art forbearers, applying industrial enamel paint with rollers over large-scale aluminum panels, creating large monochrome based abstract compositions layered with repetitive or superimposed motifs. While Wool’s practice has been documented since 1984, the present lot, Slop Dog, was produced in 1983, prior to his solo exhibits at the Cable Gallery. Wool studied at New York University and, preceding that, the New York Studio School under a faculty comprised of leading abstract painters such as Peter Agostini, Elaine de Kooning, Philip Guston, Milton Resnick, William Tucker, and Jack Tworkov. Slop Dog, 1983, is an undeniable precursor to what would resurface in Wool’s mature work, using black and white paint to create seemingly monochromatic backgrounds, emphasizing process through layering and erasure.

    During the period of Slop Dog’s creation, Wool’s environment was shaped by the “counterculture and the radical attitudes of the punk scene, which made a substantial impact on him and left traces still visible in his works today.” (M. Paz, “Origins”, Christopher Wool, IVAM; Mul edition, 2006, p. 202). Certainly, such attitude is equally evident in Wool’s photographic work as well as in his text based artwork, in which words or phrases are stenciled onto aluminum or silk-screened onto paper in capital letters, revealing sometimes despotic, iconic, cynical or vague phrases inspired directly by his urban environment or quoted from pop culture. While Wool’s stenciled text work evokes somewhat of a hard-edge they also convey street-wise allure; drips of paint trickle from stenciled letters stressing the urgency of his text while lending a sense of immediacy to the composition.

    Wool creates depth of field in Slop Dog, 1983, by layering white washes of acrylic over black drips of paint; his brush strokes appear spontaneous over the textured surface, mixing white and black acrylic into clouded sweeps and gradations of grays. The artist’s expressionistic surface is grounded by a large geometric form comprised of densely applied black paint. Taking up three quarters of the composition, this anthropomorphic form, with its arachnid qualities, is reasserted through its amassed layers, evoking movement through black spatters and drips. Slop Dog, 1983, resonates in a visceral manner that is only later recreated in Wool’s abstract paintings. Habitually working with spray paint and enamel, Wool ultimately returns to the reassertion established in Slop Dog, 1983. What distinguishes his early work from more recent productions is the illusion of rubbing while erasing and reapplying paint, giving way to a smooth surface rather than textured. Building depth in a diffused manner of layering, and evoking a semi-white-washed hand-written or graffiti-like gesture, Wool’s looped lines are subsequently erased and reapplied throughout the canvas, his geometric spidery figure hastily evolved into the density of text and quickness of illegible urban scrawl.


Slop Dog

acrylic on canvas
90 x 66 in. (228.6 x 167.6 cm)
Signed, titled, and dated “Slop Dog, Christopher Wool, 1983” on the reverse.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

10 May 2012
New York