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Untitled
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Untitled

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About the item

Wool uses clip art and decorative rollers in the way he uses verbal clichés. He recycles base materials, signs of commercial kitsch and decorative banality, and the husks of devalued emotional triggers, transforming them through a sort of alchemical overkill into strangely beautiful compositions.  (Glenn OBrien, Apocalypse and Wallpaper in Hans Werner Holzwarth, Ed., Christopher Wool, Cologne, 2008, p. 11)\nUnfurling before the viewer in an intricate web of pitch-black enamel paint on aluminum support, Untitled from 1993 is a mesmerizing testament to Christopher Wools singular investigation of and contribution to the medium of painting. Built up of screen after layered screen of Wools signature floral patterns, the individual images within the painting bleed and merge to create an exquisite cacophony of expressive abstraction; while scattered organic forms remain distinct within the inky undergrowth, the overall effect is one of riotous, untamed painterliness. Here, the artist employs nearly every motif in his arsenal of industrially sourced decorative imagesmulti-petal flowers bloom voluptuously amidst assorted bouquets and potted plants, the lacy grids of his floral roller-brush patterns overlaid like graphic strata. Counterbalancing the sensuous curves and liquid elegance of Wools inky blossoms, thin veils of blurred grisaille speckle the negative space with a distinctly urban grit, emphasizing the insurgent undertones inherent to Wools anarchic artistic practice. Visually enthralling in its monochrome multidimensionality, the unruly beauty of Untitled invokes critic Glenn OBriens memorable description: Wools compositions spring from the hungry spirit of the urban landscape, the weedy nature of the vacant lotWool takes prettiness and jacks it up until Marshall amp level distortion sets in. This amp goes to eleven. Youre in Sonic Youth territory where the composition seems to swarm, gathered within the borders of the canvas as if by magnetic force or biological imperative. (Glenn OBrien, Apocalypse and Wallpaper in Hans Werner Holzwarth, Ed., Christopher Wool, Cologne, 2008, p. 11)\nExecuted in 1993, Untitled is a superb exemplar of Wools iconic series of flower paintings; initiated in the late 1980s, these works are amongst the most elegant distillations of the artists post-modern and post-conceptual approach to painting. The series originated in Wools discovery of patterned rollers incised with blossoms, leaves, and vines, used by New York landlords to paint the hallways of their building in place of the more expensive décor option of wallpaper. Available in hardware and art-supply stores, these prosaic tools interested Wool for their circular capacity for mechanical reproduction and the disjunction between abstraction and figuration that resulted from their impressions. By transferring black enamel paint onto these rollers and then to primed aluminum panels, Wool activates the pictorial vocabulary of industrial decoration within the hallowed echelons of fine art; while these images have referents within reality, their existence on the picture plane becomes purely abstract and wholly mechanical. Describing Wools manipulation of found imagery, OBrien notes: Wool uses clip art and decorative rollers in the way he uses verbal clichés. He recycles base materials, signs of commercial kitsch and decorative banality, and the husks of devalued emotional triggers, transforming them through a sort of alchemical overkill into strangely beautiful compositions. (Ibid.) Several years later, Wool fabricated rubber stamps from the imagery of his favorite rollers, magnifying the images of flowers and initiating a system of visual noise in the procedural fallout that resulted in the image. Echoing the elegantly ornate curvature of Henri Matisse's blooming botanic cut-outs, Wool's stamps similarly abstract the forms to successfully obfuscate the boundaries between reality and representation. Despite their familiarity as ornamental forms, however, these are not the neon-bright Flowers of Warhol, nor the gleaming Balloon Tulips of Koons, but something altogether darker and more emphatic. OBrien describes: Wool transforms kitsch, something overused and depleted, into something powerful and primal. The cartoon flowers have a sort of skull and bones mojo to them, projecting the doom of happiness, the sinister bend of the cute. They are late-breaking flowers of evil. (Glenn OBrien, Apocalypse and Wallpaper in Ibid.) Taking this dislocation of the original source image one step further, in 1992-1993 Wool began to use the silkscreen with enlargements of flower images derived from the earlier wallpaper rollers and textile design, opening up the potential for greater impact. As exemplified by the present work, Wool also began to experiment with layering images atop each other, resulting in glitches such as skips, stutters, and dripsthe outlines of Wools screens are clearly delineated on the surface of the present work, overlapping in a lush maelstrom of unruly growth.\nWhen, in the mid-1990s, Wool abandoned his roller technique in favor of silkscreen, he shifted his emphasis from reduction to layering. Enlarging and reproducing floral motifs from rubber stamps, Wool repeated the same stamps in rich layers of thick black enamel; as they accumulate upon the aluminum surface over time, the dense layers increase in complexity and density as though blooming outward from the center of the picture plane. Wools accrual of an armature of screens creates a lush cacophony of densely layered forms that project an aura at once fully resolved and utterly dynamic. As petals, flower stalks, and various vine patterns burst forth across the surface atop grades of thickly applied enamel and overlapping drips, Wool creates a picture plane rife with action that simultaneously imparts a stark flatness. One scholar describes: Wool offers us access to a world where things are layered to the point of implosion, where iconographic elements are built up only to virtually fall apart. These recent paintings are also his most emphatically painterly to date: the more Wool endeavors to blot out, the more complex things get. (Joshua Decter, Christopher Wool: Luhring Augustine Gallery, Artforum 34, September 1995, p. 89) In the alabaster intervals of aluminum between the enamel forms, Wool leaves traces of the corners and edges of each screen, creating shadowy registers that read like successive frames within a slideshow, caught between transitions. In the sumptuous painterly extravagance of the present work, we are made privy to the schema of procedural omissions or glitches that disrupt the ostensibly decorative pattern that it presents. As explained by Ann Goldstein, these paintings from 1993-1995 explored image constructions as simultaneous products of both build-up and erasure: The banality that one associates with Andy Warhols silkscreened flowers is overwhelmed by the grittiness of Wools intense and seemingly out-of-control compositions. The first silkscreen works continue the additive process by laying black flower images on top of each other. Wool later introduced white into the works, painting out certain areas, and then silkscreening the black images again, wherein the process that produces the works becomes both additive and reductive. (Ann Goldstein in Exh. Cat., Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Christopher Wool, 1998, p. 262) Welcoming the potential for hyper-individualized error within mechanical application, Untitled revels in the mishaps of dripped paint and slipped outlines: ghostly traces of previous impressions are visible along the outer edges of the composition, while hazy zones of sprayed paint and smeared off-register screens reveal the intricate individuality contained within each successive layer. Manifesting an unprecedented union between painting and process, the profound expressive impact of Untitled resides in Wools virtuosic layering, overprinting, and variegation of his enamel bloomsindeed, as though echoing the inherently individualized nature of the organic forms pictured within, no two flower paintings could ever approach similitude. At once ready-made and painterly, emphatic and blurred, intricate and explosive, Untitled fluently fuses the abstract and the figurative within a single, exquisite whole, serving as arresting testament to Wools singular reinvigoration of the genre of painting.\nSigned, dated 1993, and numbered P176 on the reverse
US
NY, US
US

medium

Enamel on aluminum

creator

Wool, Christopher

dimensions

78 by 60 in. 198.1 by 152.4 cm.

exhibition

Cologne, Galerie Max Hetzler, Christopher Wool, November 1993

literature

Exh. Cat., Valencia, Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, Christopher Wool, 2006, p. 16, illustrated (installed at Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne, 1993) Hans Werner Holzwarth, ed., Christopher Wool, Cologne, 2008, p. 143, illustrated in color, p. 419 (text) and 2012, p. 137, illustrated in color, p. 419 (text)

provenance

Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne Acquired by the present owner from the above in November 1993

signedDate

Signed, dated 1993, and numbered P176 on the reverse

artist_range_end

1955

artist_range_start

1955

consignmentDesignation

Property of a Private European Collector

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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