Christopher Wool - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 15, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin

  • Catalogue Essay

    At the beginning of the 1980s, both critics and artists were questioning the viability of painting and the importance of the artist’s hand in the making process. At the same time, Christopher Wool returned to painting and the influence of this public dialogue about painting cannot be overestimated when looking at his work, as it influenced him in formulating the principles of his own work – process and physicality took precedence over content and representation. Growing up within the prolific art scene of New York, Wool has been influenced by – amongst others – Pop artists such as Richard Hamilton and Andy Warhol, Minimalism, and the likes of Richard Serra and Yves Klein. But he was especially affected by contemporaries including Cady Noland, Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen, and their attitude of hailing “the productivity of failure, claiming that the discrediting of painting’s effective capacity has opened yet another discursive field.” (F. Petzel, Psycho-sludge, Columbus: Wexner Center for the Arts, 1995).

    In the mid-80s, after a phase of semi-figurative works, Wool moved to making all-over ‘drip’ paintings, closely referencing Jackson Pollock. Using a limited palette, he worked the surface with drips and loose brushstrokes, always keeping the physicality of the medium and the process a priority. At the end of the 1980s he adapted these drip paintings to the type of works represented by the beautiful example shown here. In these, Wool uses rubber rollers to apply decorative patterns – reminiscent of wallpaper, and made out of a single motif – over and over again until the entire background is filled. Through this strategy, Wool further forgoes the basics of painting by eliminating the concepts of space, focus points and any idea of beginning and end. The viewer’s eyes are obliged to race over the work’s surface, without finding a place to settle. Such pieces continue to be ‘all-over’, but unlike the drip paintings, they have a clear and structured pattern which eliminates the traditional background–foreground relationship. “The repetitive patterns of these works are articulated by layering, skips in register, drips and scumbles… The imperfections imbue these works with fragility, as the seemingly empty decorative patterns are rendered imperfect, and thus vulnerable… Through process, technique, scale, composition, and imagery, 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, and the possibilities of playing with and pushing open the thresholds of its meanings. They are defined by what they’re not – and by what they hold back.”

    (Ann Goldstein, ‘What They’re Not: The Paintings of Christopher Wool’, in Christopher Wool, exh. cat., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1998)



Alkyd on paper.
127 × 97 cm (50 × 38 1/4 in).
Signed and dated ‘Wool 1988’ on the reverse.

£120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for £169,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

16 February 2012