Artist Christopher Wool confronts the stark reality of a pandemic

On a special edition artist cover for Document Issue 16, the artist captures the anarchic energy of a world in crisis

Arriving in New York City at the height of the punk movement in 1973, the young Christopher Wool was captivated by the anarchic energy surrounding him. Despite the various formal evolutions his long career has seen, the artist’s work consistently reflects this fascination; one of his most famous pieces, Apocalypse Now (1988), spells out “SELL THE HOUSE SELL THE CAR SELL THE KIDS” in thick, black stencil letters against a white canvas. Monochrome, spray paint, and critiques of consumer culture are characteristic of Wool’s style, effectively closing the divide between graffiti and fine art.

In a limited edition art cover for Document’s Spring/Summer 2020 issue—created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—the artist continued his graphic, minimalist approach. Amidst the chaos of the present moment, the simplicity of Wool’s contribution is piercing—and, yes, very punk.

Wool says of his cover:

“Considering the seriousness of the situation, my first thought was that it might be best to simply leave the magazine cover blank, but maybe a stark black cross might express something similar. I had just seen the images of the white military hospital boats with their stark red crosses. Adding a recent painting seemed to visually strengthen the image of the cross as well as personalize it.”