Christopher Wool’s new introspective honesty

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Christopher Wool, “Untitled Sucks” Stencil on canvas. 2013.

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.

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Christopher Wool, Stencil. “And if you…”

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.”

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Christopher Wool, “Fuckem” 1992, enamel on aluminum.

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.


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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.

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5 thoughts on “Christopher Wool’s new introspective honesty

  1. Faking a Christopher Wool is more challenging than faking a Richard Prince. He only uses Helvetica.

    You can turn that joke about faking a Richard Prince into a fake Christopher Wool.

    What can’t you fake from a faked Christopher Wool about jokes about faking a Richard Prince?

    Etc. Just throwing out ideas here.

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    1. Nice one. Related to this, saw a brief clip about Hirst last night, and apparently he did thousands of those dot paintings. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, so what’s the point (artistically speaking, not financially) in making more? The same goes for the Prince and Wool paintings. At least Duchamp only exhibited one urinal.

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      1. Julian Stallabrass points out (in High Art Lite) how the paintings are easier to make money from than the animals in vitrines, hence there are so many of them.
        Hirst doesn’t make them himself either. Like Koons, I imagine, he says that artists have always employed assistants. What he doesn’t point out is that his assistants could easily be unskilled workers on the minimum wage just like other mass production operatives. Come to think of it, I’m probably going to post about Hirst soon, though in an unusual way.
        Interestingly, in his On The Way To Work, he moans repeatedly about how people have gone on to sell the spot paintings he’s given them as presents.

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        1. Hirst did try to make a series of paintings, himself, in a style along the lines of Francis Bacon. They were largely panned. But it does interest me that Hirst, Koons, and McCarthy have all at one point in recent years decided to try their hand at making paintings in a way that requires some traditional art skills. Perhaps it was to answer the critics, but even more likely to just take a stab at actually making art themselves in a loosely traditional sense of coming up with their own content and execution (though in Koons’ case he makes collages and then has assistants make giant copies of them).

          I’ve been thinking about the negative social politics of these artists’ works, such as how they work in league with the excesses and exploitation of capitalism. Hirst’s diamond-studded skull is a good example. What does it really say? Only a rich artists can make such a commodity. I’ll be interested in reading your analysis of Hirst. By the way I think I’ve cracked his method of making the giant butterfly and insect paintings. Mostly one needs a lot of money and assistants to make them, but the designing of them is cake.

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        2. I didn’t know Julian Stallabrass. I’ve been doing a lot of catching up to make up for my missing years in China… I think I’ve been mostly unaware of what was going on in the art world for a decade or more. Anyway, I read several of his articles and watched his lecture on Jeff Wall. Good stuff.

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