Like most consummate stylists Christopher Wool tends to get away with aesthetic murder. He shares with artists as diverse as Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Alex Katz, Agnes Martin, Helen Frankenthaler and Raoul Dufy an ability to pull off suave-looking paintings with a display of effort so seemingly minimal as to be irreverent.
Mr. Wool began his career using stencils and rolled-on patterns but took up the brush again in the mid-1990s. Since then he has experimented with different ways of mixing hand and machine, unique and reproduced, hot and cold. He seems to want to prove that it is possible to be a De Kooning acolyte without relinquishing his postmodern credentials. The result is a form of Abstract Expressionism lite.
In this, his 13th solo gallery show in New York, Mr. Wool sprays on black lines, smears them into fields of brushy gray and sometimes rubs them out entirely before repeating the process. This layering of studio and street — of macho yet ghostly, half-meant bravura painting and lax, abstract graffiti — has an undeniable liveliness. The primary energy comes from the lines, which vary in thickness and suggestion (roadmaps, cursive writing) and are often fringed with drips that defy gravity. Painterly incidents pile up, but the surface never thickens. More is definitely better as exemplified by the densely composed central painting in the second gallery.
Mr. Wool seems to have deliberately overhung the show. If you don’t sort out the better paintings, they all start wearing thin. Discernment in the face of overproduction or satiation may be part of the point.
It helps that the paintings alternate with large silk-screen works in porous shades of dark gray or sepia. The best of these resemble clusters of cells, dust particles and stray hairs seen through a microscope; fashioned partly on a computer, they owe something to the paintings Albert Oehlen made in the mid-1990s. Other silk-screens maintain the De Kooning effect, but with pale divisions and out-of-sync brushwork that suggest cutting and pasting. With their Benday dot surfaces signaling mechanical reproduction, the silk-screen works are more layered, satisfying and skeptical than the paintings and truer to Mr. Wool’s barbed devotion to his medium.
New York Times