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

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  • Provenance

    Luhring Augustine, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    Painted in 1999, Christopher Wool’s Portrait (for M.A.) employs the same painted dictation of his iconic series of word paintings created between 1987 and 2002. Unlike these works which feature assertive keywords and slogans like “FOOL” and “RIOT”, this later executed work centers around a name. As indicated by the title, the present lot is Wool’s textual interpretation of portraiture. Rendered in the same characteristic, authoritative stencil-lettering, “MARK” stands out boldly against the white paper as not an impersonal declaration but as a personal dedication.

    “MARK” rendered in slippery enamel is stenciled vertically upon a piece of white paper which quickly absorbed the impending ink. His process, akin to those employed by artists like Jasper Johns and Robert Ryman has become his iconic trademark. Wool’s use of recognizable text and lettering is part of his grammatical exercise; by spacing words and phrases tightly within a white rectangular space he forces the viewer to inquisitively spell out the letters. By placing the work vertically within the present lot, Wool suggests to viewers that they tilt their head to read and digest the text; the word, seemingly simplistic, causes the viewer to wonder if they are reading it correctly. Glenn O'Brien comments that Wool creates “art that is both intense and reflective, physical and mechanical, unconscious and considered, refined in technique and redolent of street vernacular, both high and low. But despite the many apparent contradictions, the work is singular, strong, organic and as deep as it might appear shallow." These artistic paradoxes only add intrigue to Wool’s manipulated vernaculars. Rising from the depths of the paper, the word “MARK” floats to surface as a visual motif as well as an explanation of its existence as a “mark on paper.”

Property from a Private Collection, California


Portrait (for M.A.)

enamel on paper
36 x 23 in. (91.4 x 58.4 cm)
Signed, titled and dated "PORTRAIT (FOR M.A.) WOOL 9/99" along the lower margin.

$600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for $1,037,000

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