Lot 5
  • 5

Christopher Wool

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • Christopher Wool
  • Untitled
  • silkscreen ink and enamel on paper
  • 182.9 by 139.7cm.; 72 by 55in.
  • Executed in 2010.


Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is brighter in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. The sheet is attached to the backing board in several places on the reverse. The vertical edges are deckled and the sheet undulates slightly. There are artist pin holes in all four corners. There are light handling marks in places along the edges, likely in keeping with the artist’s working process.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

“Mr Wool has a nostalgic soul, which helps him reanimate Jackson Pollock’s drips via mad loopy sprays of black and, on rare occasion, red” (Benjamin Weissman, ‘Eloquent Obstacles’, Frieze, Issue 111, November-December 2007).

Rip Rig Panic and Untitled, are truly exceptional examples of Christopher Wool’s aesthetic, offering the viewer an arresting insight into the artist’s visual language. Via Wool’s distinctive palette, these wonderfully lyrical yet chaotic compositions perfectly unite the paradoxical interplay of vigorous painterly gestures of Abstract Expressionism and the slick mechanical production of Pop Art that is archetypal of Wool’s illustrious abstract works.  His highly focussed practice questions how a painting can be conceived, engaging the complexities of painting as a medium.  Both Rip Rig Panic and Untitled, encapsulate Glenn O’Brien’s view of Wool’s practice, in that he “embraces and engages action painting as his primary source and then he manipulates it, with the cool reflection of a pop artist or Dada collagist, creating art that is both intense and reflective, physical and mechanical, unconscious and considered, refined and reddant of street vernacular, both high and low” (Glenn O’Brien, ‘Apocalypse and Wallpaper’, Wool, Cologne 2012, p.8).


Wool employs varied techniques and materials in his work - such as the use of enamel, spray paint, silkscreen and paint roller, marrying painting techniques and mechanical means of reproduction such as silkscreen. This, combined with his approach to media, representation of found imagery and pictorial repetition, forges strong parity with Pop masterworks by the likes of Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. Ingrained in Rip Rig Panic are newspaper print patterns, silk-screen traces, frames within frames, repeated gestures and many Warholian touches that Wool deploys across the composition. Inherent to the artist’s creative process is the element of destruction, rubbing out and erasing previous markings. In Rip Rig Panic, large silkscreened passages have been replaced by erasures. Through cumulative acts of reductionism and recapitulation, Wool strips down the essential facets of painting to engender a union of process with picture making. Vigorous gestures of abstraction have been limited to a purely monochrome palette and enshrined into a cool painterly distillation. As Marga Paz clarifies “Wool has intuitively developed a reappropriation of his own works, which, by superimposing a series of layers he constructs an abstraction that looks gestural and eminently pictorial but is really a way of demolishing Abstract Expressionism’s concept of pictorial expressiveness” (Marga Paz in: Exhibition Catalogue, IVAM Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Christopher Wool, 2006, p. 202).


Wool maintains a deliberately reduced colour palette that has become synonymous with his oeuvre since the 1980s. The stark binary of black and white immediately calls to mind the strict chromatic polarity of Franz Kline, merging to form a range of greys that are, for the most part, the only additional hue employed by the artist. There is however occasions where the artist bucks this trend; in a delicate balance of form and colour, an expressive deployment of blood-red paint surges across the picture plane of Untitled in a rhythmic, lyrical motion. Gesture has indeed been inherent in Wool’s practice since the late 1990s, and the organised yet frenetic composition of this exceptional work on paper is immediately evocative of Abstract Expressionism’s action painting. 


At a time when the prevailing trend in painting was set by Neo-Expressionist and Transavantguardia painting, Wool joined a small band of artists including Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen who dared challenge the status quo of painting from within the medium itself. By concentrating more on process rather than subject matter, the act of painting became Wool's primary focus. Wool’s art does not merely strategise semiotic themes of signs and signifiers, but confronts the possibilities that keep painting alive. As Katrine M. Brown summarises, “Whether paint rollers, letter stencils, spray paint or silkscreen, Wool controls the chaos, to offer us a kind of primary viewing, the image as a pre-linguistic, pre-thought means of communicating. With their grand-scale, bold unapologetic presence, Wool’s paintings seem like an indescribable urban cool, a tense fusion of intellect and emotion, control and chaos” (Katrine M. Brown quoted in: Hans Werner Holzworth, Ed., Wool, Cologne 2012, p. 282).