Christopher Wool has always been a hard-ass kind of artist, that likes to taunt the viewer. His B&W stencil paintings challenge the bourgeois sense of what art or painting is, and his messages, such as “FUCKEM IFTHEY CANT TAKE AJOKE” are just a little hostile. Wool is a bad boy with bad spelling and punctuation, and that’s what makes him great. He represents the snubbed nose at the art snobs, or at least the ones who aren’t the ones buying his canvases. There’s a lot of hype around his art, and finally he got fed up and decided to come clean.
When asked about the “structural dissonance” of the “anxiety and agitation” of his texts, he decided to get honest: “Shit. I don’t even know what that means. And I don’t care. I don’t wanna’ know. That’s just the prattle the sellers hash out to dupe the suckers into buying my stuff. Y’know, you need some theoretical underpinning to justify your work. You can’t just say, ‘hey, it’s like carving a message on your school desk. I’m just being a bit naughty’. You have to make is sound like it’s really deep and you need a degree in philosophy to get it. Then people are afraid that they’re too dim, so they buy the work to prove they’re not.”
In his latest series Wool is “tired of pretending” and wants to “get real”. Instead of rehashing and appropriating bad jokes, he wants to tell awkward truths that unsettle, but “set one’s head back straight on”.
My favorite is the stencil, “IFYOUTH INK THIS SUCKSIT SBECAUS EIT DOES”. He says his own painting sucks, but in doing so shares an immediate realization. The audience gets a feeling of “I KNEW it” that breathes fresh air into the gallery space.
I might not go so far as to say Wool’s work sucks, but it’s not that much better than OK for what it is.
If you haven’t figured it out already, that’s a fake Wool I knocked out in Photoshop in about a half hour. I’m talking about the good one (“Untitled sucks”). The other two are by him. I had to download an appropriate font and install it. That was the hard part. Now that I have a template, I could crank out lots of them if I wanted to. No biggie. Easy stuff. No composition, perspective, color combinations, lighting, shading, modeling, subject matter, anatomy, or any of that kind of bullshit to deal with. One of the key features of his work is you can’t really go wrong, because if it’s messy that’s good, and if it’s clean that must have been deliberate. If it’s overworked it’s a sign of dedication, and if it’s thrown off in an instant it’s crystalline brilliance. You can’t look at it and say, “hmmmm, that color doesn’t quite work,” or “the left eye is a little smaller than the right”. . Wool found an easy way to make art, and got rich off of it. THAT process was art, or at least crafty as all get go.