Christopher Wool ( American, 1955 )

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General Description

The Dallas Museum of Art acquired Christopher Wool's untitled painting in 1991, and it has since fascinated visitors for its riddlelike challenge. The painting's text is made up of the literal building blocks of stenciled letters, whose parts, if removed from one another, would be simple abstract forms unmoored from meaning. The text is further distanced from us by its disregard for traditional hyphenation and grammar. This exacting painting tests perception as well as analysis, making us aware of how difficult it can be to understand even something as familiar as our own language. Once decoded, however, it packs an ironic, even darkly humorous, punch. From the inception of his career in the 1980s, Christopher Wool has created a major body of work that is a fearless and intelligent interrogation into the mechanics of how we read and, perhaps more often, misread the world around us via language, pattern, and symbol. Filtered through the painting traditions of American abstract expressionism, the power of black on white signs found in urban streetscapes, and the improvisational anarchy of avant-garde cultural movements both historical and recent, Wool's work has made a major contribution to contemporary art practice and our understanding of what painting can achieve in the present day.