Christopher Wool is best known for his paintings of large, black, stenciled letters on white canvases, but he possesses a wide range of styles; using a combined array of painterly techniques, including spray painting, hand painting, and screen-printing, he provides tension between painting and erasing, gesture and removal, depth and flatness. By painting layer upon layer of whites and off-whites over screen-printed elements used in previous works—monochrome forms taken from reproductions, enlargements of details of photographs, screens, and Polaroids of his own paintings—he accretes the surface of his pressurized paintings while apparently voiding their very substance. Only ghosts and impediments to the field of vision remain, each fixed in its individual temporality. Through these various procedures of application and cancellation, Wool obscures the liminal traces of previous elements, putting reproduction and negation to generative use in forming a new chapter in contemporary painting. His paintings can therefore be defined as much by what they are not and what they hold back as what they are.
Wool was born in 1955 in Chicago. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York, and the New York Studio School. Wool’s work has been exhibited extensively around the world in many solo and group exhibitions. Solo shows include the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1989); Museum Boymans–van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands (1991, traveled to Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland; and Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, Germany); Eli Broad Family Foundation, Los Angeles (1992); Ophiuchus Collection, The Hydra Workshop, Greece (1998); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1998, traveled to Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; and Kunsthalle Basel); Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva (1999); Le Consortium, Dijon, France (2002, traveled to Dundee Contemporary Arts, Scotland, through 2003); Camden Arts Centre, London (2004); Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Valencia, Spain (2006); ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), Zurich (2006); Museu de Serralves, Porto, Portugal (2008, traveled to Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany); Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2012); and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2013, traveled to the Art Institute of Chicago). Wool lives and works in New York.