Christopher Wool - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 16, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Luhring Augustine, New York
    Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
    Private Collection, Germany (acquired from the above in 2004)
    Christie’s, London, February 11, 2015, lot 14
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Berlin, Galerie Max Hetzler, Christopher Wool, September 9 - October 10, 1998
    IVAM Institut Valencià d’Art Modern; Musée d'Art moderne et contemporain de Strasbourg, Christopher Wool, April 6 - September 24, 2006, pp. 90, 209 (illustrated, p. 91)

  • Literature

    Hans Werner Holzwarth, ed., Christopher Wool, Cologne, 2012, p. 420 (illustrated, p. 216)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Wool’s work accentuates the tensions and contradictions between the act of painting, the construction of a picture, its physical attributes, the visual experience of looking at it…They are defined by what they’re not – and by what they hold back.” –Ann Goldstein, Christopher Wool, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1998, p. 263

    Untitled, 1998, marks a conceptual shift in Christopher Wool’s oeuvre, one that saw the artist turn to his own back-catalogue of imagery for creative inspiration. Conceived the same year as the artist’s major mid-career retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles that traveled to the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh and Kunsthalle Basel, Untitled was included in the artist’s retrospective at IVAM Institut Valencià d’Art Modern in 2006, later traveling to Musée d'Art moderne et contemporain de Strasbourg. Giving the impression of a multi-layered image, Wool in fact conceived Untitled from a multi-part silkscreen that captured the entire composition of a work from his earlier oeuvre. With the same riot of imagery, drips and skips that formed its antecedent, Untitled expands on the visual complexity of the former composition through the addition of markings revealing its own facture, the most overt being the crisply delineated gaps that correspond to the individual screen frames. Of this connection between antecedent and descendent, Ann Goldstein has espoused, “the silkscreen is not merely a reproduction, nor is it secondary to the original, hand-painted picture; rather, both the original and its reproduction are unique and considered equal as paintings” (Ann Goldstein, Christopher Wool, New York, 2012, p. 175).

    Untitled articulates the critical role the silkscreen technique plays in Wool’s interrogation of the conceptual limits of painting. Wool’s earliest engagement with the method grew out of his use of rollers and rubber stamps during the late 1980s. He then took repetition and seriality one step further in 1992 when he turned to silkscreen to capture his appropriated graphic motifs, reveling in the slippages, splatters and drips that the serial nature of the process generated. 1998 marked a new phase in Wool’s practice, one which saw him move from found imagery to self-appropriation. Untitled forms this new series, where Wool created a multi-part silkscreen from one of his own previously completed paintings, re-imagining the composition onto a new canvas, a support he recently began privileging over aluminum. In doing so, the composition completely transforms: whereas the source painting presented a proliferation of painterly layering and depth, the new image puts forward “a crisply delineated silhouette of the original, creating a stark, monochrome polarity between ground and image” (Katherine Brinson, Christopher Wool, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2013, p. 46).

    Works such as Untitled would seem to reiterate the conceptual parallels between Wool and Andy Warhol. Often connected in relation to their shared penchant for the medium of silkscreen and appropriated imagery, this specific series extends Wool’s connection to the Pop master who also revisited his own back-catalogue of imagery in his Reversals from the late 1970s as a means of pushing forward his conceptual painterly pursuits. Speaking of this connection, Glenn O’Brien notes, “Warhol found magic in the accidents and imperfections of the printing process…Wool is also interested in the copy of the copy of the copy, but he takes it farther…As the copy is copied it becomes more original and something else emerges, something like the soul of the machine. The process itself is the picture” (Glenn O’Brien, Christopher Wool, New York, 2012, p. 12).

    Wool paradoxically captures Untitled’s very facture in his aesthetic decision to retain the ghostly absence of the silkscreen frames as a formal part of the overall composition, giving credence to the artist’s own statement that “it’s easier to define things by what they’re not than by what they are” (Christopher Wool, quoted in Christopher Wool, exh. cat., San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, 1989, n.p.). The presence of the resulting halos extend the artist’s investigations from a year prior when he overpainted his silkscreened compositions with spray paint “frames”. By starkly bisecting the work across the horizontal and vertical axes in an uneven grid, Wool has dramatically called attention to the framing function, with the rectilinear traces of the silkscreen frames acting “like a disembodied picture of a picture, they frame a painting within a painting” (Ann Goldstein, Christopher Wool, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1992, p. 262).

    Indicative of the seminal shift that occurred in Wool’s practice in the 1990s, Untitled stands at the confluence of Pop in its method of production and Minimalism in its repudiation of the hand of the artist. Speaking of works like Untitled, Katherine Brinson notes, “Wool’s appropriation-based abstractions are less signs than portraits of paintings, and like the best examples of the genre, they delineate an interior as well an exterior likeness, as if drilling down into the subconscious of the original” (Katherine Brinson, Christopher Wool, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2013, p. 47).

Property from a Private Collection



signed, titled, numbered and dated “WOOL UNTITLED 1998 P280” on the stretcher
enamel on canvas on panel
108 x 72 in. (274.3 x 183 cm.)
Executed in 1998.

$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 16 May | On View at 432 and 450 Park Avenue