Concept is King…

Christopher Wool Untitled 1999

“Wool embraces and engages action painting as his primary source and he then manipulates it, with the cool reflection of a pop artist or dada collagist, creating art that is both intense and reflective, physical and mechanical, unconscious and considered, refined in technique and redolent of street vernacular, both high and low. But despite the many apparent contradictions the work is singular, strong, organic, and as deep as it might appear shallow.” Glenn O’Brien, Apocalypse and Wallpaper, 2012.

In the early 90s Christopher Wool was making his now famous “word paintings.” His work was indeed Conceptual painting, but he was not considered an “abstract” painter. In the late 80s early 90s his “abstraction” was a machined-looking wallpaper pattern, but this gave no hint of what was to come. By the mid 90s Wool was working towards a direct confrontation with the Greenbergists, but he was doing it not through painting processes but from the other side of Process using Warhol’s examples of photography, the Pictures Generation ideas of imagery, and the rising use of programmed replication and reproduction.

“It can’t have been clear at the time that Wool’s middle way, of earnest painterly invention, which was anything but seductive, would triumph. Several other gifted painters—among them Peter Halley, David Reed, and Jonathan Lasker—gained success with conceptually alert abstract styles. Those artists now seem a bit dated. Wool doesn’t. His works ace the crude test that passes for critical judgment in the art market: they look impeccable on walls today and are almost certain to look impeccable on walls tomorrow. Lately fetching millions at auction, Wool’s art leaves critics to sift through the hows and the whys of a singular convergence of price and value. Would that the expensive were always so good.” Peter Schjeldahl Writing on the Wall 2013


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