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  • Provenance

    Luhring Augustine, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    “ He smears black and white to arrive at a gray that, depending on your mood and the way the light hits the work, is either more black than white or more white than black.” G.O’BRIEN

    Christopher Wool came to prominence in the 1980s, at a time when painting was being called into question as a viable medium. Heavily influenced by Jackson Pollock and works associated with post minimalism, he began to explore a process-based practice, one that focused heavily on the physical properties of paint and less on the imagery and subject matter. Wool’s first body of work to attract widespread acclaim was his highly recognisable text paintings. These consisted of words and sections of text that refused to entirely convey a clear message to the viewer. His output gradually moved away from these text paintings becoming increasingly abstract and seemingly disorganized in nature to the point where he began using a spray gun to apply the surface pigment.

    The present lot, Untitled (P430), executed in 2003 falls into a specific group of works that are characterised by their large format, the use of a spray gun to apply the surface pigment, and a stark monochrome palette. Untitled (P430) is archetypal of Wool’s paintings on canvas, first initiated by the artist in 2003. This series marked a decisive break from Wool’s earlier works painted directly onto industrial aluminium. Wool's transition from the use of aluminium to canvas as a support marked a subtle yet significant shift in his oeuvre. Though his earlier use of aluminium did not in itself signify a rejection of painting traditions, his use of canvas provided him with an opportunity to re-engage the traditions of painting.

    It was also in the early 2000s when Photoshop was added to his photographic and serigraphic processes, these structures gave way to formlessness; colour became even rarer and black and white shifted towards gray. The large, opaque vertical traces crossing out his more gestural passages were replaced by erasures made with a rag. The lines are drawn using a spray gun and then, directly after, he wipes and distorts the marks using a rag saturated in solvent. Thanks to his recycling processes, Wool has been able to keep his basic formal vocabulary – splashes and large spray-painted loops –unchanged since the late 1990s.

    Untitled (P430) is comprised of several layers and contrasting aesthetics. The smudged, cloudy plane of paint serves both as a ground and cover to accommodate the energetic graffiti-like spray-painted line that loops and weaves itself throughout the composition. The multitude of layers, each challenge the definitions of mark marking and medium, colour and purity, application and erasure. A ghostly presence is exuded from the areas of enamel wash, reminiscent of an Andy Warhol Shadow painting from the late 1970s. Wool's technique of enamel application and then erasure conveys a fluidity that’s fowls energetically over the canvas. In turn, his use of a limited palette in Untitled (P430) invites the viewer to absorb the supremacy of gesture, form and space. Wool, throughout his career, has continually challenged the nature or art and the positioning of painting as a medium. He moved to New York in 1973 but it wasn’t until the early 1980s that he emerged as an artist.

    This was a period of artistic disorder within the art world; many were questioning the status of painting. It was into these surroundings that Wool began his examination of the painterly process and the different techniques that could be used to develop its properties. He has successfully re-established its positioning and ensured its relevance for future generation of artist’s, an achievement that ranks Wool as one of the greatest painters of his generation.

    ‘Wool contrives to pack into his painting energy both abstract and concrete. This in turn references the reality that he photographs without ever having to represent it. By his reliance on the limits of the painting process, Wool makes impulsiveness and control, doubt, and certainty, presence and absence come together in a single space. He captures a moment of oscillation, which is a priori imperceptible and inexpressible. In that moment, nothing and everything, the expert and the outsider, being and non-being all coexist. Here, where the meaning of system, value, and form are temporarily suspended, Wool has found a way to paint.’ (A. Pontégnie, “At the Limits of Painting,” in Wool,Taschen, 2012, Cologne p. 301)



Untitled (P430)

enamel on canvas laid on board
228.6 x 152.4 cm. (90 x 60 in.)
Signed, titled and dated 'WOOL 2003 (P430)' on the overlap; further signed twice, titled and dated 'WOOL 2003 (P430)' on the stretcher bar and reverse.

£1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for £1,082,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 16 October 2013