Christopher Wool - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Sunday, November 8, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Luhring Augustine, New York
    Phillips, London, Contemporary Art Evening Sale, February 14, 2013, lot 7
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Christopher Wool's Untitled (P271) presents a visually arresting panoply of signifiers and found decorative motifs, realized on a large-scale aluminum panel in stark black and white. The work radiates with its layers of half-meditated, half-improvised patterning, including flowers, fleurs-de-lis, hatchings, and undulating lines . The painting's surface reveals the energetic process of its facture, riddled with white pentimenti and the inky remnants of Wool's screening process. The aluminum pane is roughly bisected across its middle, traced with the outline of the many frames used to create its composition. Wool approximately replicated the patterns in either segment, creating a dizzying double image. Through this process, he invokes the multiple legacies of American Post-War painterly abstraction, Pop Art, and Minimalism, consciously addressing the challenges that face contemporary image making. 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, "What they're not: The Paintings of Christopher Wool" in A. Goldstein (ed.), Christopher Wool, exh. cat., Los Angeles, 1992, p. 256).

    Wool invokes - through overprinting, clogging and silkscreen slippage - a unique grittiness and intensity less prevalent in Warhol's paintings. As Ann Goldstein has described, the rectilinear traces of the silkscreen frames act "like a disembodied picture of a picture, they frame a painting within a painting" (A. Goldstein, quoted in Ibid.). In Untitled (P271), Wool also embraces pentimenti, engaging with erasure by using white semi-opaque paint. The work becomes a complex field of decorative elements partially obscured, yet rendered more intriguing. Wool draws the spectator increasingly to the possibilities of what might be represented underneath, rather than on top of, the painterly smoke screen. Untitled (P271) appears - through myriad patterns, lines and shapes - to have developed its own vernacular or hieroglyphic system, drawing parallels with the word paintings Wool began in 1987. Both the text paintings and Untitled (P271) share an interest in layering, but for Untitled (P271) it is not a question of meaning but of process, successively building up and unbuilding its composition. In this way, it may be that his paintings have more in common with Jackson Pollock’s experiments with the drip than even Warhol’s screens. The very intentional removal of the artist’s hand, the complex layering leading to a myriad of interpretative possibilities, even the sparse monochromatic palette all draw distinct parallels between Untitled (P271) and Pollock’s works such as Number 23, 1948. Each is self-evident in its construction and, accordingly, in its own deconstruction; each artist working to re-legitimize the technique and medium of painting by radically subverting its traditional methodology and iconology.

    In Untitled (P271), Wool boldly addresses the conflicts inherent to contemporary image-making, affirming his continued belief in the medium. Through specifically engaging with the history of Post-War American Art, he registers Pop Art's methods of mechanized production, Minimalism's emphatic denial of the author and painterly abstraction's privileging of form over content. In Untitled (P271), Wools embraces all of these paradigms - uniting the abstract and figurative, painting and print, picture and process - to explore the boundaries of contemporary painting.


Untitled (P271)

enamel on aluminum
108 x 71 7/8 in. (274.3 x 182.6 cm)
Signed, titled and dated "WOOL 1997 UNTITLED (P271)" on the reverse.

$3,000,000 - 4,000,000 

Sold for $3,189,000

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 8 November 2015 7pm