Today I finally made my way to the Guggenheim here in New York to see the Christopher Wool retrospective. I have always loved Wool’s work, which I’ve most often seen hanging in private collections. Recently, however, I have been happy to see his immediately-recognizable paintings popping up everywhere, including Christie’s recent record-breaking $691 million evening sale, during which a personal record was set for the artist, who’s Apocalypse Now sold for $26 million, blowing away the $20 million high estimate.
The current landscape of contemporary art is littered with artists who work in a variety of mediums, however painting as a medium is often thought of as outdated. The reason I am so drawn to Wool’s work is because in his practice he consistently addresses the complexities of painting while playing with various processes. Wool emerged on the New York art scene in the 1980s, and the anarchic punk influences from around that time period can easily be seen in his work.
The Guggenheim exhibition aggregates works that showcase each of the distinctive processes he has explored over the course of his 30 plus-year career. In the late 80s he used “paint rollers incised with floral and geometric designs to transfer patterns in severe black enamel to a white ground.” What I love about this body of work is that he allows for imperfections on his canvases even within this mechanized framework. The show also displays a selection of his iconic text-as-subject series, in which he stenciled words and phrases in a geometric grid, “freely stripp[ing] out punctuation, disrupt[ing] conventional spacing, and remov[ing] letters.” In addition, the exhibition highlights some of Wool’s incredible silkscreens, a process most predominantly used by the artist over the past 15 years. It was during this time Wool also started incorporating his familiar looping lines, applied haphazardly with a spray gun.
If you haven’t had a chance to see this incredibly organized show, I highly recommend visiting before it closes on January 22, 2014. Below is a difficultly-edited selection of some of the pictures I took.