In the Christopher Wool retrospective at the Art Institute, JB and I were greeted by one of the guards who asked us what we thought of the exhibit.
JB had answered he felt the work a bit depressing. I mentioned that the pieces that were the most interesting to me were the word paintings where words and phrases are treated as run-ons (see photo above).
Christopher Wool is an abstract and conceptual artist who grew up in Chicago but now lives in New York City and Marfa, Texas. The Art Institute’s exhibition information states, “the artist has used a variety of means—spray, screens, stencils, rags, solvents, air guns, and other tools—to fully re-imagine the possibilities of gestural mark-making on a surface. He also often now uses photographs of his own paintings as sources for new paintings, taking images of particular passages or gestures—best understood as outtakes or samples—and then transmitting them onto aluminum or linen grounds anew through silkscreen, either alone on a surface or in combination with enamel. And even though the majority of his works are black and white, color also makes rare appearances.”
The guard shared that these pieces all came from different private collections and it was the first time that they were all together in one place. She said that everyone’s voice is different. And everyone has to find his or her voice. You can’t copy another because it’s not you and that Wool was speaking his own language. He was passionate and disciplined about his voice. “It’s like we are all in this large auditorium. You have to go up to that stage,” she said, “and grab your mic. Most of us just sit in our seats in the auditorium and every 365 days we move back a row. I say get up. Get up. Move to the stage. Grab that mic and find your voice. Be your voice.”
One afternoon just before closing she observed a man madly taking lots of photographs of Wool’s work. She thought to herself, well, there is a man who is really connecting with this art. When she told him that the museum was about to close, he shared that he was the artist. She said he was so humble and so nice and it was the first time he had seen all the work together from all the different time periods of his life. “This man was at his mic and looking out at the audience.”
Though typically the guards at the Art Institute are more inclined to tell you to move away from the art or keep your voice down, this guard was telling us to get right up in the face of the art, experience it, and then go and make some of our own. It was rather refreshing. We totally got “guarded” at the Art Institute. No pulling the “Christopher Wool” over this guard’s eyes!