Phillips de Pury, New York, 17 May 2007, Lot 13
Simon Lee Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011
In a progression of series, from his early drip paintings, via his stamped and rolled paintings of vines and floral prints, to the celebrated stencilled word pictures, Wool has explored reductive methods of production and self-appropriation. In 1998, however, Wool took these serigraphic methods of mimesis one step further by using his own paintings as starting points for his new work. In an incredibly post-modern and complex method of enquiry, original hand-painted marks are mechanically reproduced and silkscreened in a process that challenges the traditional notions of authorship. Minor Mishap (Black) takes for its source Wool’s iconic and oft quoted corpus of drawings, the 9th Street Rundown. Representing something of an encyclopaedia of painterly marks, 9th Street Rundown encompasses an impressive range of gestures that includes drippy pours, roller patterns, sponge marks and, as in the present work, splashes. Quite literally an encyclopaedic endeavour, for these drawings, Wool lifted marks and motifs directly from illustrations in beginner’s guides to abstract painting. Masterfully fusing the original and the appropriated, these illustrations were then supplemented with the artist’s own spontaneous gestures. 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).
This standout painting not only provides the viewer with an extraordinary insight into the processes of construction and destruction in pictorial motifs, but also innovatively scrutinises and reconsiders the traditional parameters of painting. In 1981, Douglas Crimp published his seminal text The End of Painting, which articulated the impossibility of a continuation of the medium following the conceptual art of the 1960s and 70s. This was a declaration, however, that Wool refused to conform to. At a time when the underlying trend in painting was set by Neo-Expressionism and the Transavantgarde movement, Wool was part of a small group of artists, including Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen, who dared to challenge the internal mechanisms of painting itself by creating bodies of work that were inherently self-reflexive and deeply aware of art historical convention. These artists explored new possibilities by embracing failure and parodying archetypes of painterly expression. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the expressive drips, stutters and slips of the present work's unwieldly silkscreen, which so perfectly acknowledges and satirises the heroic gestures of its painterly forbears.
Indeed, Minor Mishap (Black)’s debt to art history is evident to see. The explosive splashes and splatters of paint in the present work are immediately redolent of the Abstract Expressionist paradigm of Jackson Pollock, while Wool’s insistence on a palette restricted to black and white instantly recalls the chromatic polarity of the best of Franz Kline’s paintings. Meanwhile Wool’s approach to media, his recapitulation of found imagery, his repetition and re-appropriation of his own works, forges a strong parity with Pop masterworks by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Indeed, as John Caldwell explains, it is through Wool’s mechanisms of repetition and appropriation that his works gain their celebrated cool hard-edged abstract character: “Since the repeated pattern has no inherent meaning and no strong association, we tend to view its variation largely in terms of abstraction, expecting to find in the changes of the pattern some of the meaning we associate with traditional abstract painting” (John Caldwell cited in: Hans Werner Holzwarth, Ed., Christopher Wool, Cologne 2008, p. 185). Slick, bold, and completely of its time, Minor Mishap (Black) is Wool at his conceptual finest.
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