- Christopher Wool
- Untitled (P63)
- signed, titled and dated 1988 on the reverse
- alkyd and flashe on aluminium
- 213.4 by 152.4cm.; 84 by 60in.
Günther Förg Collection
Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
Sale: Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, Contemporary Art Part I, 7 November 2011, Lot 5
Acquired directly from the above by the previous owner
Hanz Werner Holzwarth, Ed., Christopher Wool, Cologne 2012, p. 50, illustrated in colour
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Wool first used patterned paint rollers in 1986, after seeing them used on the stairwell of his apartment building. They were available in a variety of different patterns from any hardware store and Wool immediately recognised in them a readymade means of mechanical production, already imbued with a Pop orientated mentality. The aesthetic that these quotidian tools create, covering the ground in a repeating pattern with no fixed centre, no point of departure, and no harmonious resolution, creates a surface of captivating visual interest. Particularly in the present work, bedecked in swirling dots, the composition is designed to resist the viewer’s urge to hone in on a single passage and we are spurred into constantly scanning the panel. This effect was perhaps best described by the writer Gary Indiana: “Their decorative qualities are deceptions. The eye doesn’t linger in one place or rove over them registering choice bits, but locks into contact with the surface and freezes into a numbed stare. They exercise an almost hideous power, like real mirrors of existence” (Gary Indiana, ‘Chronicle in Black and White’, The Village Voice, May 1987, p. 89).
Through this emphasis not on one element or area but rather on the entirety of the composition in homogenous flatness, we are reminded of the ‘allover’ approach of Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock, who covered their canvases with profusions of paint not orientated to any centre or composition. Indeed, it is typical of Wool’s seditious style that he was able to load such rich art historical reference into such economical aesthetic forms, executed with such familiar every day tools. In the stark binary palette of black and white, we are reminded of the strict chromatic polarity of Franz Kline, who completed works with a similar sense of forceful directness. Meanwhile, in the formulation of a mechanical means of production, and the appropriation of a mark-making technique that had not yet been applied to the field of fine art, we are very much reminded of Andy Warhol and his silkscreen innovations of the early 1960s. Moreover, the present work also exemplifies the ways in which, at a time when the prevailing trend in painting was set by neo-expressionists and Transavanguardia movements, Wool struck out alongside German artists like Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen, and dared to challenge the status quo of the medium from within.
The relationship between Wool’s three materials – aluminium, alkyd, and flashe paint – is somewhat violent but wholly symbiotic. Where the acidic alkyd literally burns and corrodes the metallic surface of the piece, the indelible flashe paint seeps into the aluminium, embedding itself within the ground with ineradicable permanence. The relationship between the paint and the surface thus gives the piece a sculptural physicality, while the corrosion caused by the acid adds a third dimension of depth to the work. In the end, each single dot is literally burnt into the aluminium, negating the implicit notion that the panel could be stripped and repurposed, and thus imbuing the work with an immense sense of permanence and stature. In Wool’s own words: “I often want a painting to feel like it is the result of a certain process… a process that was not simply that painting / picturing process of putting together a formalistically successful painting. I’ve made paintings that were ‘pictures’ created merely by the act / process of painting over a previous image” (Christopher Wool quoted in: Hans Werner Holzwarth, Ed., Christopher Wool, New York 2008, p. 160). Through the present process of chemical reaction, the work becomes an object in its own right, transcendent of any sense of representation or symbolism, and beholding meaning only unto itself.