Christopher Wool (b. 1955) was born in Chicago and now lives and works in New York. He is one of the most recognised abstract painters working today. His influential method and practice has dramatically evolved throughout his career. Over the years, he has developed a number of signature techniques; interested in the visual representation of language and colour through abstraction, he is best known for his graphic black and white word paintings.
He has consistently questioned painting as a medium by deliberately removing himself from historical conventions, and uses the process of painting as a vehicle for critique from within. What persists in his experimental work is a willingness to confront the ongoing dislocations and tensions between the configuration and the representational dimensions of the artistic process. The result is a refusal, which is as much political as it is aesthetic, of the agreeable synthesis of configuration and representation in classical art theory.
In the 1980s, the artist rose to prominence during a time when the conceptual and minimal movement in the United States had boycotted painting as a viable medium. A new generation of American artists at the time – including Wool, Richard Prince, and Jean-Michel Basquiat – engaged with painting to make it their own. In the late 1980s, Wool developed his pronounced word paintings that assembled alliterative statements and laid out incomplete phrases in a gridded pattern. In 1988, he introduced the use of a rubber stamp with the roller, constructing a pattern by repeating the stamped image.
During the 1990s, silkscreen became the artist’s preferred technique and one that he continues to use. He began to explore a process-based practice, heavily influenced by the drip paintings of Jackson Pollock and works associated with post-minimalism. He is most instantly recognisable for his paintings of large black stencilled letters on white canvases. However, he works in a wide range of styles – using a combined array of painterly techniques, including spray-paint, silkscreen, and hand painting. His loose style allows for imperfections throughout: such as overprinting, slipping and clogged screens – but the artist embraces these imperfections, each one contributing to the individuality of his works.
Wool embraces failure and parodies, the grand archetypes of traditional painting. He has also explored various styles of mark making, starting with single lines, and then intertwining lines. The result is a free yet formal repetitive aesthetic which continues Wool’s career-long inquiry into the deconstruction of the conventions of painting. Making an image entails giving himself up to a mode of painting which does not offer the viewer insight to what has actually been painted. An intricate web of appropriation and layering has become synonymous with the artist’s celebrated oeuvre as a whole. His sophisticated exploration and development of process-based painting has received vast critical acclaim and paved the way for younger generations of artists. Sensational, provocative, and endlessly engaging, his vast body of work claims him as one of the most influential painters of the modern era.