Christopher Wool (b. 1955) is best known for his large stenciled paintings of letters on white canvas and his monochromatic palette. He has the distinguished status of being both an established and an emerging artist, meaning that he has not yet, in the view of many art world professionals, attained his full stature as an influential artist. John Lewis, writing in Harper’s Bazaar, said he is “one of the very few artists keeping painting alive, ornery and unafraid.”
The letter paintings create a tension between reading and looking and thereby between representation and abstraction. The letters are merely stenciled into place but their edges are irregular and imperfect and the words are broken up into fragments. Simultaneously, however, they are eminently legible and upon deciphering the stacked fragments they convey all of the meaning words usually convey. Viewed as pictures rather than words, however, the meaning becomes ambiguous.
This winter the Guggenheim Museum in New York will install a major retrospective of Wool’s work. Here is its assessment of his career to date:
At the heart of Christopher Wool’s creative project, which spans three decades of highly focused practice, is the question of how a picture can be conceived, realized, and experienced today. Engaging the complexities of painting as a medium, as well as the anxious rhythms of the urban environment and a wide range of cultural references, his agile, largely monochrome works propose an open-ended series of responses to this central problem. This retrospective will fill the museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright–designed rotunda and an adjacent gallery with a rich selection of paintings, photographs, and works on paper, forming the most comprehensive examination to date of Wool’s career.
From the mid 1980s to the present Wool has made books an important part of his work. Many look like his iconic paintings of stacked, stenciled letters, and putting letters and words into books is both an ironic and an altogether fitting thing to do.
Books with Christopher Wool available from Boreas Fine Art:
Wool, Christopher. The Black Book. New York / Cologne: Thea Westreich, and Gisela Capitain. 1989.
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