John-Paul Stonard reviews a retrospective exhibition of works by Christopher Wool at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, on view through January 22, 2014.
Stonard writes: "Abstract painting has always had an uneasy relationship with decorative art. How to partake of its effects, while achieving a sense of reflection and the force of statement? The mistakes and infelicities that Wool allows to drift in to his ‘decorator’ works (my term) are one solution. The jerky registration of the roller paintings and his later screen prints suggests a loose matrix in which the patterns and forms jiggle nervously about… the paintings are more interesting and better than the printed works – as paintings tend to be. Untitled (2007) has a monumental scale of gesture and sense of vigour that can hardly be found in the silkscreens. Soft enamel washes create a unique effect like misty celluloid or the ghostly forms of X-ray photography: smooth, faded, translucent. It has a kind of weightlessness, perhaps the mark of all truly abstract painting, defined not by the absence of recognisable things but of natural forces, principally the one that keeps us grounded and defines our shape."