Christopher Wool - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Saturday, May 7, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Luhring Augustine, New York
    Blum Helman Gallery, New York
    Locksley Shea Gallery, Minneapolis
    Christie's, Los Angeles, December 14, 1999, lot 307
    Private Collection, United States
    Christie's, Paris, December 8, 2010, lot 11
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen; Cologne, Kölnischer Kunstverein; Kunsthalle Bern, Christopher Wool: Schilderijen/Paintings/Bilder, 1986 - 1990, February 16 - August 18, 1991

  • Literature

    Christopher Wool, Cats in Bag, Bags in River, artist's book/exh. cat., Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1991, p. 93 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Over the course of his over four decades long career, Christopher Wool has reestablished and reasserted the primacy of painting, most notably the possibilities inherent within abstraction. Employing a variety of appropriated symbols, novel application techniques, and compositional variety in his work, Wool has found critical success trailblazing new forms of expression in an age oversaturated with communication. Wool’s art manifests a wholly unique power in its conceptual core – the idea of how to make a picture that resonates with self-contained and self-reflected authority in an age of visually overstimulated meaninglessness. Wool most often does so by drawing the viewer in to investigate the very nature of the painting itself, utilizing an economy of means that focusses one’s attention on only the most pertinent of questions, more how and why than what. This simplicity is what led him to the industrial stamp-roller frequently employed by urban slumlords to decorate dilapidated tenement buildings. Utilizing a basic floral motif, Wool coolly establishes in his early painting, Untitled from 1989, many of the conceptual and psychological complexities with which he continues to address today.

    Untitled, a six foot by four foot alkyd and acrylic on aluminum painting, navigates seamlessly between the abstract and the figurative, the handmade and the readymade. The composition consists of ten large scale floral forms; all of which sit against a pure white ground. Immediately indistinguishable, each form reveals itself, upon closer inspection, to be widely variegated. Nuances in paint application and surface imperfections become increasingly visible, the result of Wool’s use of the rubberstamp roller. What appeared originally as one flower dissolves into a branch made up of five blossoms, each with their own qualities of saturation and density, all repeated ten times over in a sort of oxidized blood red. There is a rawness and immediacy to these flowers, even within their mediation, that permeates the picture plane. Like pressed-flower specimens in a field notebook, each is both the same and wildly individual; their seemingly irregular compositional arrangement only heightening this natured quality. By allowing inconsistencies to proliferate within the composition, Wool subverts the mechanic quality of the rubber stamp, i.e. the readymade. He credits his interest in the liminal space between the readymade and handmade object to a visit he made in the early 1980s to Robert Gober’s studio. He was struck by Gober’s meticulously crafted sinks, which so deftly mimicked their functional equivalents and were simultaneously loaded with latent pathos imparted by the vagaries of Gober’s hand.

    The divergent technique, imagery, and compositional arrangement all serve to elucidate Wool’s radical practice. The power of his technical process and employment of a single motif is to deny the floral symbol its mundane function as decoration, “Although they came from the world of ornamentation, these motifs were stripped of any decorative, symbolic, or descriptive quality….”(Marga Paz, “Christopher Wool” in Christopher Wool, exh. cat., Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, 2006, p. 201) However, it is the combination of all that informs paintings such as Untitled, 1989, that lends Wool his greatest authority. This exceptional work affords a highly revealing insight into Wool’s processes of construction and destruction of pictorial lexica, as well as his scrutiny and reconsideration of conventions of painting. Such conceptual, aesthetic, and psychological complexities form the kernel of Wool’s practice and which have provided ample fodder for one of the most resonant artistic practices of the 21st century.

Ο ◆18


alkyd and acrylic on aluminum
72 x 48 in. (182.9 x 121.9 cm)
Signed, titled and dated "WOOL 1989 UNTITLED P. 93" on the reverse.

$700,000 - 1,000,000 

Sold for $725,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 8 May 2016