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Making his name in early 1980s New York, Christopher Wool is perhaps some of the most influential artists of his generation. Best known for his paintings of large black letters stencilled on white canvases, Wool’s vast body of work has been exhibited around the world and sold at auction for record breaking prices.
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Christopher Wool‘s most famous painting, Apocalypse Now (1988) takes its line from the same-named movie, with his signature monotone text reading “SELL THE HOUSE SELL THE CAR SELL THE KIDS.” After changing hands among some of the world’s top collectors in a chain of sales, the piece raised $26.5 million price at auction at Christie’s in November 2013.
As a result, artnet claims the piece rose in value by 350,000% over the course of 25 years.
“The journey of Apocalypse Now to the biggest night the auction world had ever seen is the story of the contemporary art market’s unprecedented rise and the forces behind it.” – Bloomberg Businessweek
Christopher Wool rose to prominence as the conceptual and minimal movement took off, and many US artists had boycotted painting as a medium. A new generation of artists including Wool, Richard Prince, and Jean-Michel Basquiat engaged with painting to make it their own.
Now, he is widely recognised as one of the most influential abstract painters of the modern era. He has also been given several academic honours, having been named a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, serving as a DAAD Berlin Artist-in-Residence and receiving the Wolfgang Hahn Prize Cologne.
Wool’s development and experimentation with process-based painting has been met with huge critical acclaim, and helped to pave the way for other younger artists.
Christopher Wool was born in 1955 and grew up in Chicago. In 1972, he enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, where he studied painting with Richard Pousette-Dart. He left for Manhattan after a year and attended classes at the New York Studio School with Abstract Expressionist painters Jack Tworkov and Harry Kramer.
During college, Wool soon became immersed in the underground film and music scenes of downtown New York, taking a short hiatus from painting to study film at New York University in the late 1970s. Wool eventually dropped out of school, and returned to painting while working as a studio assistant to the sculptor Joel Shapiro, this time fully devoting himself to the medium.
Today, he lives and works in New York and Texas with wife and fellow painter Charline von Heyl.
Throughout the NY circle of artists of all sorts, Christopher Wool gradually started exhibiting his works. As time went on, his career rapidly started growing.
In 1984 and 1986, Wool received his first solo exhibitions at New York’s Cable Gallery. An institutional presentation of Wool’s work was held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1989 and since then his work has been exhibited widely around the world, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, CA; the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst am Museum Ludwig in Köln, Germany; the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in Paris, France; and at the Guggenheim in New York, NY.
Wool has also participated in the Whitney Biennial, New York (1989), Documenta, Kassel (1992), the Lyon Biennial (2003), and the Venice Biennale (2011).
Christopher Wool art dramatically evolved throughout his career, but influences can be clearly seen in conceptual art, Minimalism and even Pop art.
He has developed various signature techniques for the visual representation of language, and uses a wide array of experimental techniques to paint including spray cans, silkscreen, hand painting, aluminium, varnish, photography, paint rollers and stencils.
In the late 1980s, Wool began creating paintings which featured alliterative statements or phrases. Words are often broken up by a grid system or missing vowels, creating more than just a literal depiction of certain phrases. In 1988, he began using a rubber stamp with the roller, repeating the stamped image to construct a pattern, and using hand rollers to apply paint and remove more traditional painterly qualities from his work.
During the 1990s, silkscreen became the artist’s preferred technique, and he often reused imagery to produce dense, multi-layered motifs. Works are sometimes interrupted by spray paint smudges, mimicking qualities of urban street art which his whole practice is based on.
His loose style can include imperfections such as overprinting, slipping and clogging, which he embraces as the grand archetypes of traditional painting, contributing to the unique quality of his pieces.