Artist, Painter, Photographer, Bookmaker, and Sculptor

Artist, Painter, Photographer, Bookmaker, and Sculptor

Christopher Wool '72

Christopher Wool '72
Photo credit: Erik Tanner for The New York Times

Christopher Wool '72

Lab alumnus Christopher Wool ’72 has been recognized as one of the most important abstract painters of his generation. Specifically for his “word paintings,” which are large canvases with silk-screened phrases from movies, TV shows, or other recognizable materials.

Wool’s work has been in various art exhibits, institutions, and auctions worldwide since he embarked on his career in the mid-1980s, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, among others.

He was named a fellow of the American Academy in Rome (1989), served as an artist-in-residence in DAAD Berlin (1992), received the Wolfgang Hahn Prize (2010), and was honored with amfAR’s Award of Excellence for Artistic Contributions to the Fight Against AIDS. He has published several books of photographs and works from his time living in New York and part-time in Marfa, Texas.

Wool grew up in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood in the 1960s and has referenced it as “an incredible time.” His father, Dr. Ira G. Wool, was a molecular biologist and professor for the University of Chicago and his mother was a psychiatrist. Wool has recollected that, at 12, he attended two shows that gave him a sense of “art’s subversive power”—The Hairy Who art collective and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, an Afrofuturist jazz combo.

According to The Art Story’s biography on him, Wool studied photography and art in U-High, and one of his art teachers was Robert Donald Erickson. After Lab, Wool went to New York to study painting and photography with Richard Pousette-Dart at Sarah Lawrence College. He then attended the Studio School to focus on painting. From 1980–1984, Wool worked as a studio assistant for Joel Shapiro, a sculptor, and was greatly influenced as this led him to create abstract paintings.

In the last few years, Wool has been creating sculptures made of twisted barbed wire at his home in Marfa.

“I don’t know where I’ll go next with the sculpture,” Wool told The New York Times in a May 2023 interview. “I mean, I’ve pretty much fished out all of the found wire that’s possible for me to find in West Texas. It might not continue to provide me with new ideas, so maybe I’ll have to start working in a completely new vein.”

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