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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Christopher Wool
B. 1955
DOUBLE BROWN NOSE
signed, titled and dated 2003 on the overlap; signed, titled and dated 2003 on the backing board
silkscreen ink on linen
244.5 by 183.2 cm. 96 1/4 by 72 1/8 in.
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Provenance

Luhring Augustine, New York

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2013

Exhibited

New York, Kenny Schachter / ROVE, Indigestible Correctness II, April - May 2004

Stockholm, McCabe Fine Art, Christopher Wool: Selected Paintings, January - March 2015

Catalogue Note

Destruction, deletion and abandon are the hallmarks of a deeply personal visual process for American artist Christopher Wool, whose dynamic canvases illuminate a profound oscillation between negation and affirmation, doing and undoing, doubt and determination. As part of Wool’s extraordinarily successful series of abstract works, Double Brown Nose exhibits complex qualities of indecisiveness intrinsic to Wool’s artistic production. Executed in 2003, the composition presents an iconic breakdown in formal systems, as abstract forms are continually obliterated in never-ending layers of chaotic overpainting transferred to canvas by silkscreen. Wool’s messy, erratic and gestural style evokes the language of graffiti on city streets, and the painting itself seems to morph into an act of vandalism. Indeed, the urban vernacular of New York prevails on the surfaces of Wool’s abstractions, exposing a vivaciously cool, punk language informed by the artist’s experiences as part of the city’s underground film and music scene of the 1970s and '80s. In his screenprinted paintings which depict frenetic passages of monochrome pigment, Wool dismantles the tradition of painting, reviving it for a truly contemporary generation. In a decisive age where artists increasingly abandon the medium of paint, here by contrast, “we are confronted with work that deals with the possibilities and mechanisms that keep painting alive and valid in the present, an issue that, despite all forecasts, is one of the most productive and complex issues in contemporary visual art” (Marga Paz, ‘Christopher Wool’, in: Exh. Cat., Valencia, IVAM Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Christopher Wool, 2006, p. 200).

The early 2000s was a pivotal period for Wool’s visual process. He worked almost exclusively with abstract forms, exploring expressive potential through ideas of repetition, erasure, mechanic manipulation and a highly restricted colour palette. The works completed during this period mark a critical shift in Wool’s repertoire, for the artist’s hand was removed entirely from the act of image-making: black enamel was drawn onto the surface not with brush but spray gun, and expressive configurations were applied repeatedly via silkscreen, techniques that masqueraded as a wholly free-hand corpus. Wool began using silkscreen in 1993, adopting Andy Warhol’s trademark method of serially reproduced images. Wool’s abstract forms are undoubtedly reminiscent of Warhol’s Shadows series, yet while Warhol used the same screen to execute the same painting numerous times, Wool’s method of silkscreen allowed for mistakes in the form of drips, splatters, spillages and slippages, aberrations clearly present in the provocative composition of Double Brown Nose. In this highly unique process of silkscreen, Wool did not register the screen, and when passing ink through it the culminating effect was one ultimately of surprise: indeed, the role of chance became vital to Wool’s artistic process, his canvases’ inherent sense of unpredictability both exhilarating and intriguing. As such, through his dynamic employment of the silkscreen medium, Wool challenges his viewers to find perfection in imperfection, and beauty in fallibility. Fellow artist Richard Prince powerfully asserts, “Long story short: Reincarnation. What Christopher has done with silkscreen has made the medium whole again. He has taught an old dog new tricks” (Richard Prince, ‘Wool’ in: Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon. R. Guggenheim Museum, Christopher Wool, 2014, p. 238).

The gestural kineticism central to the present composition draws viewers inwards, its reductive language equally compelling and disorientating as one walks around the space of the work. The artist himself claims, “I define myself in my work by reducing the things I don’t want – it seems impossible to know when to say ‘yes’, but I know what I can say ‘no’ to… It’s easier to define things by what they are not than by what they are” (Christopher Wool cited in: ibid., p. 48). Wool’s large-scale monochrome canvases are undoubtedly reminiscent of Franz Kline’s reductive, black and white abstractions, a vast series of works also influenced by the chaos of urban life in New York City, albeit fifty years prior. Like Wool’s gestural articulations, Kline’s immense ideograms of abstract motifs powerfully offer an impression of velocity, similarly embracing the unpredictable nature of ‘action painting’ or ‘process art’. In the 1950s and '60s, Kline’s wide brushes produced tiny splatters and inflections upon his canvases, and Wool’s chaotic silkscreen process evokes such idiosyncrasies of his predecessor’s celebrated work. Yet Wool’s patterns are seemingly more delicate, almost whispered on the surface of his canvases in a deeply personal, intimate meditation on what painting in contemporary America should be today. Thus, most significant to Wool’s oeuvre is its profoundly self-reflexive quality: “What Christopher’s work is about… is what all good artists’ work is about… the self and what’s immediately around the self. Tried and True. It’s all self-portrait. Always has, always will be” (Richard Prince, ibid., p. 239).  

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London