Christopher Wool - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 15, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Publicly I would probably insist on labeling the work abstract...but for me they are ‘pictures’ with all that that implies...”

    Demonstrating many of the recognizable themes and motifs that have occupied the artist for the last number of decades, Untitled, 1999, presents us with Christopher Wool’s signature process and skillful technique. Untitled is an exemplar of a significant body of work in which Wool has overlapped found ornamental forms into a chaotic dissonance of symbols, patterns, and expressive gestures. This cacophony of black crosses, noughts, hash-tags, and spots scrawled over the white canvas creates a controlled yet impulsive overall effect for which the artist is so highly acclaimed.

    Wool’s impressive contribution spans several mediums including paper, photography and painting, as he has examined the expansive qualities of a seemingly stark black and white aesthetic. Wool began improvising his stand out style during the mid 1970s with the development of abstract paintings which were engaged in all over process that inquired into the nature of what constitutes painterly execution. With these works, Wool sought to define such paintings by the elimination of everything that seemed superfluous, thus denying color, hierarchical composition, and internal form. Wool’s paintings are as much defined by their purposeful exclusions as their inclusions, as the artist has stated, “You take color out, you take gesture out - and then later you can put them in. But it’s easier to define things by what they’re not than by what they are.”

    Throughout the 1980s Wool’s emphasis on this radical reduction expanded as he continued to create paintings that steered away from precise subject matter and representational form. Eventually, he started to incorporate new printmaking techniques such as patterned rubber paint rollers, rubber stamps, stencils, and silk
    screening. Wool began a creative association with domestic patterning with a series of work utilizing decorator’s rollers originally designed for printing wallpaper patterns.

    Untitled, 1999, represents a body of work where Wool enlarged of-the-shelf patterns, and reintroduced the prosaic shapes in a startlingly new context. He was then able
    to gain control of the scale and overall composition by using silk screens to expand the original design and then allowing the screens to layer the patterns over one
    another, varying their states of legibility throughout the canvas. These variations in weight across the surface offer moments of both assurance and hesitancy. The tension
    and friction between mark and erasure, gesture and removal, is the product of Wool’s evolution in the contingency of the processes inherent in making images.

    While Wool’s paintings have developed into a class of their own, the method of silk screening recalls Andy Warhol’s legendary Pop Art output. Wool adopted Warhol’s
    practice of reproducing systems of mass production and his appropriation of readymade imagery. Additionally, the use of a repetitious decorative pattern is reminiscent
    to Warhol’s use of repeating motifs, and in the present lot, Wool even divides the canvas into four quadrants, similar to Warhol’s iconic technique of displaying recurring images on the same canvas, as seen in his stunning Marilyns or Disaster Series.

    Wool intentionally selects his patterns based on their commonplace banality, which encourages viewers to focus on the artistic process rather than an overtly defined
    meaning within. This emphasis on process rather than representation extends beyond the boundaries of Warhol’s Pop silk screens though, and crosses over into the realm of Abstract Expressionism. While Wool did create successful drip paintings earlier in his career, his decorative rollers and silk screens, although repetitive in nature, continue to operate like the drip paintings as allover compositions. Clearly there are connections to the contribution of Jackson Pollock’s allover approach as well as the graphic intensity of Willem de Kooning’s black and white paintings of the late 1940s.

    In addition to extending a lineage of the New York School, Wool also leans towards painterly abstraction reminiscent to the allusions to language found in the work of Cy
    Twombly. The marks that compose Untitled, 1999, and like works, have no intrinsic meaning or specific association, its variations in pattern and legibility lend themselves
    to traditional abstract painting more so than a Pop Art influence. Furthermore, the deliberate elimination of color in much of Wool’s output also pays homage to a more
    Minimalist quality. As Bruce W. Ferguson has suggested, “Wool accepts that he is and that his paintings are, at any moment, within what Richard Prince calls ‘wild history’, subject to the intertextual meeting of various discourses” (B. Ferguson, quoted in A. Goldstein (ed.), “What they’re not: The Paintings of Christopher Wool”, Christopher
    , exh. cat., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, 1998, p. 256). Ultimately, Wool’s seamless blend of artistic influences and genres became a melting pot of creativity, making for an exceptional body of work that is uniquely his own.

    Wool has throughout his exceptional career formulated some of Contemporary art’s most iconic and elegant imagery. Taken in its entirely, Untitled, 1999, encapsulates an
    intricate web of overlap and layering that has become synonymous with Wool’s celebrated oeuvre as a whole. His sophisticated exploration and development of process based painting has received vast critical acclaim and has opened up endless avenues for younger generations of artists.



enamel on canvas
90 x 60 in. (229 x 152.5 cm.)
Signed, titled and dated "WOOL 1999 Untitled (P295)" on the reverse; further signed, titled and dated" WOOL 1999 P295" along the overlap.

$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $1,685,000

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner
Head of Sale
[email protected]
+1 212 940 1256

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York 16 May 2013 7pm