“The harder you look, the harder you look.” —
no coincidence the Guggenheim Museum is devoting its entire rotunda to
Christopher Wool this winter. The artist’s career has seen him draw
influence from the most important movements in 20th-century painting—
create a style entirely his own, in turn influencing a new generation
of artists. Here, we examine the complex web of influence Wool has woven
over the years.
One of the earliest (and most cerebral)
Richard Pousette-Dart was Wool’s painting teacher at Sarah Lawrence
college. In 2011, Wool and Pousette-Dart’s daughter co-curated an
exhibition of the painter’s works at Luhring Augustine, the gallery that
has represented Wool since 1987.
Wool moved to New York City’s Lower East Side in 1973, he enrolled in
the graduate program at the Studio School, where he would study under
Jack Tworkov—another famed
painter whose late-career adoption of gridded geometry and a more theoretical practice helped form a bridge with
first saw Joel Shapiro’s sculptures in 1974, which impressed him
greatly, and then from 1980 he would spend four years working part-time
as Shapiro’s studio assistant. Around this time he was beginning to
produce paintings whose “gawky abstract shapes” have been identified
as influenced by Shapiro.
was a longtime friend of Wool’s father, who had a huge collection of
the Swiss artist’s multimedia works in their Chicago apartment,
undoubtedly influencing Wool’s unconventional approach to materials. In
1981, Roth visited Wool’s NYC studio and bought a work—Wool’s first
In 1983, Wool would visit Gober’s studio and see one of his famous
fixtureless sink sculptures, prompting him to remark, “I realized he had
done something. And I realized I had to do something.” In 1988, the two
artists would collaborate on an installation at 303 Gallery, featuring
Wool’s iconic painting Apocalypse Now
, Gober’s Three Urinals
sculpture, and a collaborative photograph.
In 1988, the like-minded artists collaborated on two paintings. Wool made them, and Prince provided the jokes: “I
didn't have a penny to my name so I changed my name” and “I went to see
a psychiatrist. He said tell me everything. I did, and now he’s doing
my act.” Prince also contributed a glowing essay to the Guggenheim’s
“Christopher Wool” exhibition catalogue.
Both cited as some of Wool’s profoundest influences, Oehlen and
Kippenberger were two radical German artists who achieved fame in the
1980s; their work challenged the properties of painting and, as
gallerist Friedrich Petzel once described, “hailed
the productivity of failure.” Wool designed posters for Kippenberger’s
exhibitions in the ’90s and has counted Oehlen among his friends since
they first met in 1988.
Often seen as one of the heirs to Wool’s commanding influence, Josh
Smith emerged in the ’90s with his aggressive gestural paintings, often
featuring semi-abstract renderings of his own name. Wool and Smith
collaborated on a project in 2007, titled can your monkey do the dog
; the two artists digitally manipulated each other’s artworks and assembled the creations into a published volume.
:Explore the Guggenheim Museum’s “Christopher Wool” exhibition on Artsy.
but most certainly not least, we come to German-born painter Charline
von Heyl, who has been married to Wool since 1997. Respected completely
on her own terms for her similarly expressive, if often more
representational style of painting, von Heyl has described her
partnership with Wool as “a marriage about the luxury of being alone