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Christopher Wool is widely recognised as one of the most influential abstract painters of the modern era. He is probably best known for painting large black letters stencilled on white canvases.
He has developed various signature techniques for the visual representation of language, and uses a wide array of experimental media to paint including spray cans, silkscreen, hand painting, aluminium, varnish, photography, paint rollers and stencils. His style is loosely based on urban street art and can include imperfections such as overprinting, slipping and clogging, which he embraces as the grand archetypes of traditional painting.
Wool’s development and experimentation with process-based painting has been met with huge critical acclaim, and has helped to pave the way for other younger artists.
Having studied painting in New York, first under Richard Pousette-Dart and later with Abstract Expressionist painters Jack Twokov and Harry Kramer, Christopher Wool made his name in 1980s’ New York, rising to prominence just as the conceptual and minimal movement took off and many American artists were turning away from paint as a medium. He, on the other hand, engaged with painting, along with other young artists such as Richard Prince and Jean-Michel Basquiat, to take the medium to a new level.
In the late 1980s Wool began to create paintings featuring alliterative statements or phrases, the words often broken up by a grid system or missing vowels, thus creating more than just a literal depiction of certain phrases. With a rubber stamp he would construct a pattern and apply paint with a hand roller to enhance its urban street art qualities and take away the more traditional painterly feel. He later turned to silkscreen as a preferred technique and often reused imagery to produce dense, multi-layered motifs.
His vast body of work has been exhibited around the world and sold at auction for record-breaking prices. His most famous painting, Apocalypse Now (1988) raised $26.5 million at Christie’s in 2013.
Solo exhibitions include the Cable Gallery, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles; the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst am Museum Ludwig in Cologne; the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; and the Guggenheim in New York. He has also participated in the Whitney Biennial, New York (1989), Documenta, Kassel (1992), the Lyon Biennial (2003) and the Venice Biennale (2011).