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.
Having moved to Manhattan in the late 1970s, Wool found himself in the thick of the turbulent underground life of New York, which had a defining influence on his creative development.
The artist made a name in the New York art scene in the early 1980s for his “word paintings” – large black, stenciled letters on white canvases, that would later become his most recognizable images. In these works, seemingly familiar words and phrases, stuck together in unexpected places and separated by additional spaces and transpositions, are transformed into a pattern, a kind of abstraction, focusing on language as image.
Wool centered his attention on the search for new possibilities in painting, devoting four decades of his career to experimentation and exploration of new techniques. From the beginning, 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. Often, he reworks images of his own finished paintings, questioning the authority of the artist’s hand and destroying their very essence by painting layer upon layer over the image.
The complex technique that Wool uses encourages the viewer to reflect on the physical qualities of paint and reproduction and to be aware of painting procedures and the essential elements of the medium: form, line and color. The Wool’s art practice also extends to sculpture, photography and art books.
Christopher Wool has been 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.
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).
Wool’s 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).