Since the 1970s, Carroll Dunham (b. 1949) has developed a unique pictorial language in a significant oeuvre encompassing painting, drawing, print and sculpture. Employing a formal mastery of line, texture and colour, Dunham’s distinctive body of work continually engages new and recurring modes of art-making.
Drawing on the art historical canon but also on pop culture including sci-fi and cartoons, Dunham revisits enduring themes that comprise our existence — trees, guns, the planet, bathers and wrestlers amongst others — while simultaneously exploring the formal attributes of painting. Riding the line between abstraction and figuration, planes of strong colour and Dunham’s curvilinear line activate the energetically-charged works.
Through anthropomorphic forms, vivid abstractions, surreal landscapes and archetypal figures, the artist demonstrates his fascination and unique ability to play with scale, orientation and composition to give physical form to psychologically challenging imagery. Dunham’s careful choreography provides insight into his subjects’ complex internal world.
‘Dunham’s paintings conjure everyday realities as both more and less than real; the so-called ordinary is unfamiliar, new terrain, politically, sexually, environmentally. Fictional portraits of the known moving into an unknown, they show vivacity, even about the incapacity to know the future. I mean, they have a vitality, these frank, beautiful misfits, or funny, smart disturbances. Not stories but wordless pictures.’
Lynne Tillman, 2016
Image: Qualiascope: Female and Male kept together, 2020–2022, urethane, water soluble crayon and pencil on gessoed linen, 208.6 x 241.3 cm.; 82 x 95 in.; 228.3 x 261.3 x 7.3 cm.; 89 7/8 x 102 7/8 x 2 7/8 in. (framed)