Magazine article Artforum International

Christopher Wool

Magazine article Artforum International

Christopher Wool

Article excerpt

"There is always form there, whether it's a form that can be repeated--and I've been trying for some time now to back away from that. I like to find something new each time, [taking up] the sum total of my experience." This keen and succinct articulation on process, desire, and invention, delivered in a radio interview from 1996, might have issued from the mouth of Christopher Wool. Instead it is an observation on compositional method by the underground jazz musician Joe McPhee, a longtime influence on the painter. And leave it to the idiosyncratic Chicago gallery Corbett vs. Dempsey to host an exhibition that unabashedly celebrated Wool's musical inspiration alongside McPhee's analogously improvisatory production.

With its title taken from a portable overdubbing tape recorder that McPhee used when playing shows in the late 1960s, "Sound on Sound" featured three paintings and four drawings by Wool, a live solo performance by McPhee, and a new CD of old recordings that the jazz artist made between 1968 and 1973 [incorporating tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, toy piano, toy percussion, percussion, space organ, flute, feedback, kalimba, and Echoplex) with a cover designed by Wool. In recent years, as the Chicago-born artist has moved away from his signature text paintings, his work has been criticized as "Abstract Expressionism lite," "half-meant bravura painting," and the product of a "consummate stylist." But when juxtaposed with McPhee's music and considered in the context of American jazz, Wool's thin and mannered abstractions expose an impressively pliable grammatical and syntactic range--perhaps one too shrewd and discriminating to be fully grasped when measured exclusively against those hoary painting standards of the New York School or of Pop.

To form the wily, sinuous lines seen in the three large paintings on view here (all works designated Untitled and dated 2009 or 2010), Wool used an airbrush. …

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