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Artists Christopher Wool
Christopher Wool Photo

Christopher Wool

American Painter, Photographer, and Sculptor

Born: 1955 - Boston, MA

Christopher Wool Timeline

Quotes

"These other mediums [photography, artist's books, painting, digital work] kind of loop back on each other in the work."
Christopher Wool
"Painting is a visual medium, and they're to be looked at. Like listening to music, it's an emotional experience."
Christopher Wool
"The tools have changed and the ways of exploring visual things have expanded. But it's not a paradigm shift, it's the same old paradigm."
Christopher Wool
"If you're not fearless about changes, then you won't progress."
Christopher Wool
"I am interested in visual language."
Christopher Wool
"With Basquiat or Picasso, the fact that they could do it so easily is what makes the work so great. They had absolute fearlessness."
Christopher Wool

"I think of myself primarily as an abstract painter, but I find that in making paintings there is a little bit of investigation into what abstract painting can be."

Synopsis

Christopher Wool is an enigmatic abstract painter whose formal experimentation and satirical subversion has left him both commercially successful and acclaimed by some critics, whilst condemned as banal or superficial by others. His public persona is reserved, and he carefully monitors the boundary between his personal and private life.

Wool's work is grounded in an investigation of abstract painting through a postmodern repurposing of signs and symbols. Familiar images, including stark black and white patterns, shapes, and particularly words are repeated, manipulated and erased. His most famous works, the 'word paintings', are large canvases silkscreened with phrases that suggest graffiti slogans, lines from movies or tv shows, or other recognizable material. The framing of such works as abstract paintings is designed to question what painting is, how it should be produced, and how an image can incorporate multiple layers of meaning that are revealed by the viewer's attention.

Key Ideas

Wool deploys recognizable or familiar forms (patterns, words or even classic expressionist painting techniques) to question the medium and a viewer's ability to divine meaning from it. By making words seem strange by placing them in a grid system and disrupting their ability to be read, for example, he asks that the viewer sees them as both an abstract shape and as something that conveys direct meaning. This causes the viewer to question their aesthetic attentions and how they perceive the world around them, as well as any formal preconceptions about abstract painting.
Wool's work brings the outside world into the rarified and perhaps remote sphere of abstract art, particularly through his photography. This work is often expressionistic: using focus, perspective, or the frame of the image in creative ways, but taking as its subject the street or city that surrounds him and his studio - grounding his work in everyday life.
Whilst abstract images, his paintings, and particularly the ones which include text, demonstrate influences from other artforms, whether pop cultural allusion or graffiti-esque slogans that evoke narrative. Apocalypse Now (1988), for example, is a formal rendering of a line from Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film of the same name - 'Sell the House, Sell the Car, Sell the Kids'. This implicitly questions the notion of 'high art' or 'pure expression', suggesting that even abstract painting is informed, influenced and inspired by mass media and everyday encounters.
Wool maintains an air of mystery around his personal life and reveals little about his processes or intention, which relates to his emphasis on individual experience and interpretation. This also echoes other artists and artistic movements, most notably Warhol, who famously claimed that his painting revealed anything a viewer might need to know about him.

Biography

Christopher Wool Photo

Childhood

Christopher Wool was born in Boston in 1955 to Glorye and Ira Wool, a psychiatrist and a molecular biologist. That same year the family moved to the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, where Wool was brought up alongside his younger brother Jonathon. In 1959, when Wool was four years old, the family moved to Cambridge, England, where they remained for one year before returning to Chicago.

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Christopher Wool Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Christopher Wool
Interactive chart with Christopher Wool's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Dan FlavinDan Flavin
Joel ShapiroJoel Shapiro
Albert Oehlen
Mark RothkoMark Rothko
Willem de KooningWillem de Kooning

Personal Contacts

James Nares
Glenn O'Brien

Movements

Pop ArtPop Art
Conceptual ArtConceptual Art
Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism

Influences on Artist
Christopher Wool
Christopher Wool
Years Worked: 1980 - Present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Wade Guyton
Josh Smith
Kelley WalkerKelley Walker
Dan Colen
Seth Price

Personal Contacts

Richard Hell
Robert GoberRobert Gober

Movements

Post-Conceptualism
Post-Modernism

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Sarah Frances Dias

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Lewis Church

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Sarah Frances Dias
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Lewis Church
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