Christopher Wool (1955, Chicago, IL, USA).
Lives and works in New York and Marfa, TX, USA.
“With painting, inspiration comes from the process of the work itself. Like music, it is an emotional experience. It’s a visual language and it’s almost impossible to put words to it.”
– Christopher Wool
Wool studied painting at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY, and the New York Studio School, and he studied film at New York University. In the late 1970s, he relocated to Manhattan, immersing himself in the vibrant underground culture of New York, which significantly influenced his creative development.
From the beginning of his career, Wool centered his attention on the search for new possibilities in painting. He refused the expressionism of color and brushstroke in favor of monochrome compositions in which he used commercial tools and images drawn from mass culture, such as print media, advertising, music and film, mashing together pictorial and print techniques in his work.
In the 1990s, Wool started using silkscreen as a primary tool in his work. Patterns on the surface of the canvas began to multiply in dense configurations, sometimes interrupted by fragments of staining or doodles of spray paint that resemble an act of vandalism on a city street. By the end of the decade, he had moved almost entirely to work with abstract forms, renewing the expressive potential of painting through strategies of replication, erasure and digital manipulation. One of Wool’s revolutionary series involved employing rollers and stamps to transfer intricate decorative patterns in bold black enamel onto a white surface.
Through his iconic “Word Paintings,” Wool delved into the intersection of language and imagery, presenting viewers with enigmatic provoking imperatives. In both instances, Wool deliberately introduced unexpected breakdowns within his formal systems — such as slips, glitches, fractured text, and erratic spacing — in order to evoke a wide range of emotional states, spanning from pathos to aggression. By employing this intricate and multi-faceted technique, Wool invites viewers to engage with the physical qualities of paint and reproduction, cultivating an acute awareness of painting procedures and the fundamental elements of the medium: form, line, and color.
Over the course of his forty-year career, Christopher Wool has explored the potential of the painting in the days, when the medium’s capacity seems to have been exhausted. Expanding his artistic practice to encompass photographs, prints, artist’s books, and sculpture, he contemplates images as inherently volatile entities, susceptible to a myriad of disruptive processes.
Christopher Wool was named a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome (1989), served as a DAAD Berlin Artist-in-Residence (1992), received the Wolfgang Hahn Prize (2010) and was honored with amfAR’s Award of Excellence for Artistic Contributions to the Fight Against AIDS. His works were represented at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), Biennale d’Art Contemporain de Lyon (2003), the 6th International Istanbul Biennial (1999), Documenta IX in Kassel (1992) and Whitney Biennial (1989).
Works by Christopher Wool have been exhibited at numerous institutions around the world, including the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY, USA), Centre Pompidou (Paris, France), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York, NY, USA), Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) (New York, NY, USA), New Museum (New York, NY, USA), Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MOCA) (California, USA), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) (California, USA) and Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands).