In an incredibly complex, postmodern investigation of originality and authorship, Wool began in 1998 to use his own paintings as starting points for new work. Last Year Halloween Fell on a Weekend uses a silkscreen of Wool’s gray painting Run Down Run from 2003 and applies an additional layer of brilliant scarlet spray paint. In appropriating his own work, Wool challenges the notion of the copy; in his re-coloring, Wool further evokes Warhol’s much esteemed series of Reversals and Retrospectives, in which he revisited earlier bodies of work through new chromatic opportunities. A disorienting hybrid between copied and new marks, Wool creates a dizzying effect that conflates the original and the appropriated to the point of illegibility. As Katherine Brinson explained, “In 1998, he began to use his own paintings as the starting point for new, autonomous works. He would take a finished picture, use it to create a silkscreen, and then reassign the image wholesale to a new canvas. Simple as this transfer might seem, it effects a distinct metamorphosis… This strategy of self-appropriation marked a new phase in Wool’s practice in which original mark-making, tentatively permitted, coexists with works that deny the hand entirely.” (Katherine Brinson, ‘Trouble is My Business’ in Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (and travelling), Christopher Wool, 2013, p. 46)
Brash lines of hot scarlet snake their way around a vaporous background of washed grey, roughly tracing Wool’s marks from the year prior, while commanding an electrifying visual power. Like a vandal taking a spray-can to the wall, Wool simultaneously defaces and makes anew—what renders this act so enthralling, however, is his own heightened self-reflexivity, redefining the landscape of Modernism whose tenets are already so resolutely tied to self-conscious pictorial strategies. While Wool began this riveting procedure of self-citation in 1998, at the start of the millennium the artist started to use digital imaging as a way of transferring his old paintings into the foundation of his new work. This translation process resulted in a dizzying halftone effect, fragmenting his source image into modules of dots that revealed the interventions of the photographic mechanism. Adhering to a compelling uniformity inextricably linked to Wool’s abiding interest in sign-painting and the translation of the mechanically reproduced photographic image onto the painterly surface, Wool’s surface maintains a concomitant machine-made quality with a seductive chromatic expressionism that lures us into its electrifying fuchsia spangles.
In 1981, Douglas Crimp announced the death of painting—a declaration that Wool categorically refused to listen to. At a time when the prevailing trend in painting was set by Neo-expressionism and the Transavantgarde movement, Wool joined a small band of artists including Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen who dared to challenge the status quo of painting from within the medium itself. As perfectly represented by the present work, he explored new possibilities by successfully addressing the contradictions and interrelationships between abstraction and figuration. In a progression of series, from paintings of vines and floral prints to the pre-eminent digital silkscreens and stencilled word pictures, the artist explored reductive strategies informed by a plethora of art historical precedent, such as the minimalist geometric landscapes of Piet Mondrian, the all-over action paintings of Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol's distinctly post-modern silkscreen works that trafficked in mechanical reproduction with the same élan as Wool’s Last Year Halloween Fell on a Weekend. The slick black-and-white aesthetic Wool adopted as his signature style evidences an ongoing negotiation with and reconsideration of the history of abstract painting and painterly process; the present work sees Wool push past the monochromatic tones of his earlier paintings, literally building upon them with bright pink accents that render the painting even more visually arresting and entirely engrossing.
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