Christopher Wool’s Art of War

Christopher Wool sees the world in black and white. But this isn’t to say that the 53-year-old New York artist is dogmatic. “I try to keep the faith that if I concentrate on expressing myself, it will communicate,” he says. “But in the end, I’ve come to accept that no one sees my work in the same way I do.” Each of his silkscreens, Polaroids and stencilled words embodies layers of nuance. Compelling detail (“splattering” painted neatly onto the canvas with a fine brush) and charged phrases (“SELL THE HOUSE SELL THE CAR SELL THE KIDS”) have drawn discerning eyes to his monochromatic art for more than 20 years.

Wool’s Pop Art-inspired, multimedia work has hung with the heavyweights in the Luhring Augustine gallery and the MoMA in New York, in addition to other coveted spaces from Athens to Tokyo. A recent large-scale series of enamel-on-linen paintings — intense, sweeping brushstrokes of paint attacked by thinner on a rag — tell elaborate stories of process. “I’m not looking for that perfect moment,” says Wool. “I’m looking for what is just before or just after that ‘perfect’ moment, something that couldn’t have been imagined before, something that’s almost impossible to know.”

Art fans with deep pockets can trace Wool’s breathless explorations in a sprawling 426-page, limited-edition tome by Taschen. And he’d like to apologize in advance for the hefty price tag: “$1,000 for a book is a bit obscene — but remember, there will be a trade edition.” On the subject of legacy and the lasting power of his words, the notoriously private artist says, “In the words of Woody Allen, ‘I’m not interested in immortality, I just want to live forever.’”

Photo by Eugene Richards.

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