Christopher Wool



Not on display

Christopher Wool born 1955
Enamel paint on aluminium
Support: 2742 × 1826 mm
Presented by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of Donald L. Bryant Jr and family in memory of Monique Beudert 2009

Display caption

'You Make Me' is an ambiguous phrase suggesting both coercion and completeness. Is it a statement about force or about making someone whole? Wool appropriates texts from sources such as films, but uses repetition or unexpected intervals between words and letters to fracture meaning. Here the words are stacked up, disrupting our ability to read them as a fluid sentence. Since the mid-1980s, Wool's paintings have generally consisted of either abstract ornamental imagery or black lettering on a white background. In both groups the images appear magnified, taken to the brink of disintegration.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Technique and condition

The painting was executed on a single aluminium sheet that is supported by aluminium 'stretcher', glued to the back of the panel. The stretcher is a five-membered construction with mitred outer corners and a single horizontal cross member. The front face of the aluminium panel was probably prepared or etched in some way before the application of paint, as the adhesion appears extremely good.

The paint is all alkyd-based 'enamel' paint, probably formulated specifically for use on metal substrates and the application technique appears reasonably straightforward. The white coat (possibly a metal primer) was applied by brush over the entire surface. The positioning of the letters was then established with a grid drawn in pencil, which is still clearly visible. Finally the black paint was applied, again by brush, with the assistance of masking tape. The black paint bled under the tape in a number of places, resulting in a slightly smudged appearance. The only alteration to the composition during the execution of the work was the positioning of the word 'ME'. Its initial location was slightly higher and to the left, in line with the left margin of the grid and with a similar gap between it and 'MAKE' as there is now between 'MAKE and 'YOU'. However, after it had dried, it was painted over with an additional coat of white paint, and then the word 'ME' was repainted in its current position. The original location is still clearly visible, especially when the painting is viewed in a raking light. Both colours appear to have been reasonably fluid on application, especially the black paint (there are some 'tide marks' visible in the 'O' and 'U' of 'YOU'). Although the paint application was executed with the painting horizontal, it was presumably transferred to the vertical position before the black paint had fully dried. Both paints have a reasonably high gloss and are extremely opaque.

The painting is in excellent condition. The aluminium panel provides exceptional support for the paint layers, and providing the painting is handled, displayed and stored in the appropriate manner, it should remain in this near-pristine state.

Tom Learner
July 2000

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