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Untitled
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Untitled

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About the item

He has long been fascinated by the way words function when removed from the quiet authority of the page and exposed to the cacophony of the city, whether through the blaring incantations of billboards and commercial signage or the illicit interventions of graffiti artists. But with their velvety white grounds and stylized letters rendered in dense, sign painters enamel that pooled and dripped within the stencils, the word paintings have a resolute material presence that transcends the graphic. (Katherine Brinson in Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (and travelling), Christopher Wool, 2013, p. 40) The origin story surrounding the genesis of Christopher Wools legendary word paintings is definitive of a formative moment in downtown New York City history. In 1987, while walking the streets of his Lower East Side neighborhood, Christopher Wool encountered a new white truck that had just been freshly branded with graffiti. Scrawled across its side was a spray-painted tag reading SEX LUV in crudely rendered stenciled letters. Captivated by the graphic immediacy and pictorial power of these words, Wool returned to his studio and made his very first text composition, stenciling the letters SEX LUV in gleaming enamel on a single sheet of white-painted paper. This initial composition laid the groundwork for the series that would become Wools singular declaration of the continuing relevance of painting at the end of the Twentieth Century. Five years later, Wool returned to the very same text in the present work, rendering the words SEX LUV on an aluminum ground. Bearing the text that began Wools entire series of word paintings, Untitled occupies an unrivaled place in his outputit is these two words that became the very basis upon which Wool ultimately advanced the project of painting in the face of postmodern skepticism. Concurrently provocative and aesthetically seductive, Christopher Wools brilliant Untitled is the very quintessence of his most immediately recognizable and significant body of work.\nThe abbreviated quality of the words SEX LUV is paralleled by the quadrilateral brusqueness of Wools rectangular grid, in which the geometric blocks of black text assert a regimented space. Like street signs or tabloid headlines, the words are both matter-of-fact in their presence and manifestly urban, revelling in the short bluntness of their hard-edged consonant letters and the imperfection of the misspelled, abbreviated LUV. Marked off by faint remnants of Wools penciled lines, denoting the predetermined gridded structure for his painted letters, the surface of the present work makes visible the armature that defines the compositional direction of Wools practice. Moreover, as is characteristic of Wools paintings, the edges of the stenciled enamel letters reveal arresting glitches of processrich incidents of dripping, skipping, or distortion that corrupt our reading of the words. In this way, the words become a visual rather than purely linguistic device, centering attention toward the material application of enamel on the aluminumprocess rather than content here takes reign. The formality of the grid and the truncation of the word imply constriction, while the obstruction of such rigid boundaries by process-driven interruptions articulate a palpable painterly virtuosity along every edge.\nHere, the composition is minimal and the individual letters have been reduced to a bipolar, stenciled schematic. Whereas the execution of the work achieves the perfection of Minimalist reduction on the one hand, on the other it includes overt suggestion of its handmade manufacture, with the irregular outline, smudges and drips heavily in evidence. Through his text paintings Wool interrogates not only the definitions of subject matter, conceptual content, and creative authorship in painting, but also demonstrably exhibits a love of the act of creation, insistently leaving remnants of the process of its making, such as the luscious drips of ink-like paint in the present work, to designate the hand of the artist. Wool is interested in the way that text can function as image, harnessing the pictorial qualities of his stenciled letters to accentuate their status as shapes and de-naturalize their communicative utility.\nThe initial rendering of the words S-E-X and L-U-V in 1987 was the catalyst that inaugurated Wools signature formlarge black letters, stenciled abutting one another upon a smooth white background. Wool began this series in 1987 by painting prominent stenciled black capital letters on aluminum surfaces, revelling in their elusive quality and ambiguity; associated with both the punk poetics of the downtown scene in the early 1990s alongside the increase in postmodern critical thinking, Wools paintings investigate the limitations of language as descriptive signifiers, challenging the legibility and objectivity of language by its visual capacity for incessant re-interpretation. Perhaps curator Madeleine Grynsztejn phrased it best when she wrote, Wool deliberately choreographs a collision between different components of languagegrammatical, semantic, visual, imaginary and spokenthat conveys an emotional magnitude beyond the range of everyday speech and closer in spirit to the true proportions of Wools subject: the inherent inefficacy and near-constant failure of language. (Exh. Cat., Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art (and travelling), Christopher Wool, 1998, p. 267) Capturing an historic catalytic moment in the artists oeuvre, Untitled bristles with the feeling of discovery that sparked an artistic revolution.\nSigned, numbered S69 and dated 1992 on the reverse
US
NY, US
US

medium

Enamel on aluminum

creator

Wool, Christopher

condition

This work is in excellent condition. Please contact the Contemporary Art Department at +1 (212) 606-7254 for the report prepared by Terrence Mahon. The work is unframed. In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

dimensions

43 by 30 in. 109.2 by 76.2 cm.

exhibition

Greenwich, Connecticut, The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Deliverance, November 2014 - April 2015, p. 151, illustrated in color and pp. 161, 176, illustrated in color (in installation)

provenance

Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York Lambert Art Collection, Switzerland Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, May 10, 2012, Lot 3 Private Collection Acquired by the present owner from the above

signedDate

Signed, numbered S69 and dated 1992 on the reverse

artist_range_end

1955

artist_range_start

1955

creator_nationality_dates

B.1955


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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