Carroll Dunham

Selected Works

Any Day

2017
urethane, acrylic and pencil on linen
198 x 254 cm.; 78 x 100 in.
Photo: David Regen

“With the introduction of the female bather into the world of the wrestlers, the moral allegory mounting in Dunham’s work comes full circle. The archetypes of mankind, womankind, animalkind, nature, at once, seem to stand for something urgent; this is melodrama and morality play, myth and reality, a history painting detailing the destructive powers of the present, and, too, perhaps the ignorance of euphoria, escapism.”

C. Taft, “WWD: Dunham’s World of Wrestling”, in Carroll Dunham: Any Day Mud Men Green Hills of Earth Dusk Last Rites Left for Dead, exh.cat., New York: Gladstone Gallery, 2018, p. 14

Green Hills of Earth (1)

2017
urethane, acrylic and pencil on linen
172.7 × 200.7 cm.; 68 x 79 in.
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Photo: David Regen

“As he did in much of his earliest work, Dunham first rendered the figures in pairs or groupings, a self-imposed constraint through which to explore formal variables […]. As the works progressed, the array of bodies–one male relating to another male–became increasingly elaborate, an entanglement of limbs in motion that nevertheless recalled Greek and Roman aesthetic tropes […]. The series Green Hills of Earth (1–3) (2017) is an advanced example of Dunham’s serial approach to this sort of figuration. This triptych embodies a sum of spectacles and no single work represents the totality. One builds upon the next.”

C. Taft, “WWD: Dunham’s World of Wrestling”, in Carroll Dunham: Any Day Mud Men Green Hills of Earth Dusk Last Rites Left for Dead, exh.cat., New York: Gladstone Gallery, 2018, p. 9

Horse and Rider (My X)

2013-15
mixed media on linen
294 x 203.2 cm.; 115 3/4 x 80 in.
314.96 × 224.47 × 5.4 cm.; 124 × 88 3/8 × 2 1/8 in. (framed)
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth
Photo: David Regen

“It started off as a fantasy of a painting of a woman on a horse. When I started it one of the first things I did was to snap chalk lines to make an X, which I used to understand the segments of the painting, and which I then decided to make another subject. So to me the painting has two levels, which is why it has two subtitles. When I was young I had to get away from systems in art in order to find myself as an artist, so when it came back into my work in an organic way, I found that interesting and my own. I really do think the X is as important as the horse and the rider and the other subjects. In some ways more so.”

C. Dunham and D. Nadel, “Don’t Spook the Horse: Carroll Dunham on His New Work”, Hyperallergic, 14 November 2015

Large Bather (quicksand)

2006–2012
polyurethane and pigment and pencil on linen
244.2 × 302.9 cm.; 96 1/8 × 119 1/4 in.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

“In 2006, when he began one of the most significant works in the series, Large Bather (quicksand), Dunham made a conscious decision to drain the bather’s body of pink so that she was composed only of a black line and white ground. The bodies that followed similarly lacked color, their fleshy, Caucasian skin tones reduced to contrasting areas of black and white; this was less an erasure of race than a spaying of the color pink.”

Catherine Taft, “WWD: Dunham’s World of Wrestling”, in Carroll Dunham: Any Day Mud Men Green Hills of Earth Dusk Last Rites Left for Dead, exh.cat., New York: Gladstone Gallery, 2018, p. 8

Bather/Night

2009
acrylic on canvas
180.3 × 180.3 cm.; 71 1/8 × 71 1/8 in.
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
© Carroll Dunham

“I had decided to make a group of work around images of women, though looking back now, I recognize that the process was a little bit unconscious. At first, I didn’t even see them as figurative paintings – I saw them much more diagrammatically and in relationship to earlier paintings I had made.”

C. Dunham and A. Gingeras, Bathers Trees, exh. cat., New York: Gladstone Gallery, 2012, p. 71

Distant Hills (Broken Tree)

2007-2008
mixed media on linen
152.4 x 167.6 cm.; 60 x 66 in.
Christen Sveaas’ Kunststiftelse
© Carroll Dunham. Courtesy of Christen Sveaas’ Art Foundation

“Sometime in 2007 Dunham began systematically painting trees. […] Despite their ostensible subject, the paintings are surprisingly abstract; these are not trees as we know them. The rectangle of foliage has been enlarged so that is subsumes the majority of the canvas, dominating the pictorial field. Dunham again subjects it to a sequence of formal operations, rotating it, flipping it from top to bottom, bisecting the composition along a diagonal, and either magnifying or reducing particular details in relation to other elements.”

K. Linker, “On the Image in the Mind’s Eye”, in Carroll Dunham: Painting and Sculpture 2004-2008, exh. cat., Millesgården Museum, Lidingö; Zurich: JRP/Ringier, 2009, p. 24

Untitled

2006
graphite pencil on paper
14.6 × 10.6 cm.; 5 3/4 × 4 3/16 in.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

“The work slid quickly into bawdy territory, and by the early 2000s, the gunslingers were losing their specificity as men; Dunham painted them from behind with the compositions focused on prominent posteriors and minimally rendered (or entirely abstracted) genitals that seemed to signify a neutering, or perhaps a different sort of hole altogether.”

Catherine Taft, “WWD: Dunham’s World of Wrestling”, in Carroll Dunham: Any Day Mud Men Green Hills of Earth Dusk Last Rites Left for Dead, exh.cat., New York: Gladstone Gallery, 2018, p. 7

Big Orange Planet

2005–2006
mixed media on linen
304 x 274 cm.; 119 3/4 x 107 7/8 in.
Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo
© Carroll Dunham / Astrup Fearnley Collection, Oslo, Norway. Photo: Thomas Widerberg

“The complexity of Dunham’s enterprise can be grasped in one of his most unique and uncharacteristic paintings, Orange Planet (2005). If we move beyond the literal level of reading (by which the work describes a planetary body or sci-fi alternative realm), Dunham’s subject here is a private universe that is also an esthetic world, in the manner of Courbet’s Painter’s Studio (1855) or Matisse’s Red Studio (1911). The sphere is a support, or perhaps a matrix, for a catalogue of themes whose interrelationships suggest the metaphorical links and formal affinities that engender individual works. In this sense Orange Planet delineates the iconography of Dunham’s imagination as well as his conceptual procedures and tactics.”

Kate Linker, “On the Image in the Mind’s Eye”, in Carroll Dunham: Painting and Sculpture 2004-2008, exh. cat., Millesgården Museum, Lidingö; Zurich: JRP/Ringier, 2009, p. 18

Dead Space (Garbage)

2005
acrylic and polystyrene on canvas
183 x 214 cm.; 72 1/8 x 84 1/8 in.
Photo: David Regen

“The Dead Space cycle of paintings from 2005 depicts naturalistic space like a graveyard–an inactive or lifeless realm, rendered in chalky grisaille and littered with refuse or discarded language (Dead Space, Garbage). Situated in the foreground and painted in dark hues with sharp value-contrasts, the figure appears integral to a pictorial space whose surface he both disturbs and animates by the slanted asymmetry of his body and the tilted plane of his hat.”

K. Linker, “On the Image in the Mind’s Eye”, in Carroll Dunham: Painting and Sculpture 2004-2008, exh. cat., Millesgården Museum, Lidingö; Zurich: JRP/Ringier, 2009, pp. 16-18

Female Portrait (Second Generation, B)

2003
painted aluminium and wood
165 x 198 x 63 cm.; 65 x 78 x 25 in.
Photo: David Regen

“Few excursions have been as fruitful for Dunham’s painting, however, as Frozen Shadows and Captured Shadows, two groups of black-painted steel sculptures respectively from 2002-3 and 2004. […] Using the same series of drawings that had guided his black-and-white paintings from 2000, Dunham then excised shapes from the drawings out of a single metal plane. He conceptualized the resulting character as feminine, or as reflecting the female figure, which he had previously been unable to formalize coherently in the two dimensions of his paintings. In an homage to Marcel Duchamp or perhaps to Johns, Dunham has described the figures as shadows, implying images projected out of the paintings into another dimension, or into life outside. And yet they have a formal exuberance and an insistent physicality, suggesting an alternative reading as the equivocal presences that had shadowed his masculine character for a decade.”

K. Linker, “On the Image in the Mind’s Eye”, in Carroll Dunham: Painting and Sculpture 2004-2008, exh. cat., Millesgården Museum, Lidingö; Zurich: JRP/Ringier, 2009, p. 20

Mesokingdom Five (orgone sea)

2001
mixed media on linen
144.8 × 185.7 cm.; 57 × 73 1/8 in.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

“Painted with Abstract Expressionist urgency in black and white, Mr. Dunham's explosive new paintings all focus on one central character, an angry Puritan in a top hat with a penis for a nose. Presented up close, portrait-style, he is, in every case, surrounded by a cartoon landscape vigorously drawn in thick black lines.

With his wide open mouth and big teeth he seems in a rage to shout down or chew up the natural world that engulfs him. He's the angry white male, frothing against a world perceived as uncontrollably and irrationally female […].”

K. Johnson, “Carroll Dunham – 'Mesokingdom”, New York Times, 17 May 2002, p. 35.

Untitled

1998
pencil on paper
38 x 55.3 cm.; 15 x 21 5/8 in.
Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2021 Carroll Dunham

“Drawing is the literal and figurative lifeline of Carroll Dunham’s Art. For him imagining drawing and drawing imagination cannot be separated, nor can formal deliberation and spontaneous invention. More emphatically than any of his generational peers Dunham has renounced the bans imposed on the subjective acts of the hand imposed by the artists pop and minimal in the 1960s. With lyric vengeance he has reinstated the erotics of art.”

K. Kertess, “Drawing Consciousness”, in Carroll Dunham: Paintings, exh. cat., New Museum, New York; Ostfildern-Ruit, Hatje Cantz, 2002, p. 26

Ship

1997-1999
synthetic polymer paint, urethane paint, and pencil on linen
305.1 x 396.5 cm.; 10 1/8 x 13 1/8 in.
Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2021 Carroll Dunham

“Over the years, the dots and scribbles of early drawings from the 1980s have coalesced into humans (or humanoids) with mouths and limbs and other appendages. Mounds have grown into landscapes with trees, and square houses like the little homes dotting Amish countryside have popped up on the horizon. For a time, rectangles with mouths and limbs navigated wooden ships through seas of choppy waves.”

N. Haddad, “Carroll Dunham drawing: A Strange language of forms”, in Carroll Dunham: A Drawing Survey, exh. cat., Los Angeles: Blum & Poe, 2012, p. 303

Yellow Planet

1996
mixed media on linen
228.6 x 167.6 cm.; 90 x 66 in.
234.79 x 173.83 x 5.87 cm.; 92 7/16 x 68 7/16 x 2 5/16 in. (framed)
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

“Overlaid with graphite scribbles and bouncing cell shapes, the form is reminiscent of an amoeba or even the nucleus of a cell, but this little green form could also be a planet – if not Earth than a sibling from another galaxy.”

N. Haddad, “Carroll Dunham drawing: A Strange language of forms”, in Carroll Dunham: A Drawing Survey, exh. cat., Los Angeles: Blum & Poe, 2012, p. 315

Integration

1991
acrylic, vinyl, oil, pencil, styrofoam, sand, glass, and plastic on linen
122.1 × 152.7 cm.; 48 1/8 × 60 1/8 in.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

“I’ve always been drawing shapes and filling my paintings up with shapes. But I began to see that the shape and its surrounding and the relationship between the shape and its surrounding could be the painting. That seemed like a beautiful idea to me because it was so clear. One to one between me and the painting, between me and the shape.”

C. Dunham and B. Sussler, “Carroll Dunham”, Bomb Magazine, issue 30, 1 January 1990

Untitled

1990
pink wax crayon and graphite on white wove paper
45.7 x 60.3 cm.; 18 x 23 3⁄4 in.
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
© Carroll Dunham

“I’ve worked with pink since I was really young. I love pink; it’s a colour you don’t see that much in normal life, except in weird little décor details and things like that. When I say it was a crutch, I mean that with this premise, there’s automatically going to be this big, sexy shape in the middle of the painting, and all of the other colours will have to co-exist with it.”

C. Dunham and A. Gingeras, Bathers Trees, exh. cat., New York: Gladstone Gallery, 2012, p. 77

Orange Shape

1988
mixed media on ragboard on panel
152 x 203 cm.; 60 x 80 in.
Photo: David Regen

“Once the line had finished its circular path, Dunham began the process of filling in. It was a case of horror vacui, his calligraphic line dominating the process. Using his gifted command of traditional techniques, he added varieties of shading, slashing diagonal lines, cross hatching, stippling and marks that read as marginal notes. Shapes that seemed to mutate from volume to void and vice versa occurred in wildly disjunctive juxtapositions that annihilated traditional spatial consistency.”

P. Plous, “Picture Making”, in Carroll Dunham: Paintings and Drawings, exh. cat., Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, 1996, p. 15

Pine Gap

1985–1986
casein, carbon pencil, coloured and graphite pencil, and dry pigment on wood veneers mounted on plastic
195.4 × 104.1 cm.; 76 7/8 × 41 in.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

“I think my working on the wood panels was the thing where it finally clicked, where I could use a different kind of drawing vocabulary, and the way it connected to the material supported it all in a way that really connected up with these other kinds of painting I was interested in.”

C. Dunham and G. O’Brien, “Carroll Dunham: stronger than paradise”, Purple Magazine, Fall/Winter, 2016

Five Pieces

1984
casein, dry pigment, flashe, casein emulsion, carbon and pencil on cherry, walnut, zebrano, maple, and American walnut
152.4 x 114.3 x 2.54 cm.; 60 x 45 x 1 in.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

“Dunham grasped for wood and began to paint. Painting like the grain, against the grain, with the grain, turning the wood into an illusion of itself; turning knots into nipples and vice versa.”

K. Kertess, “Drawing Consciousness”, in Carroll Dunham: Paintings, exh. cat., New Museum, New York; Ostfildern-Ruit, Hatje Cantz, 2002, p. 30



Image courtesies:
Five Pieces, 1984, Orange Shape, 1988, Particular Aspects (Two), 2003, Female Portrait (Second Generation, B), 2003, Captured Shadows: 4-A, 2004, Dead Space (Garbage), 2005, Featuresless (Two), 2005, Square Mule, 2006, New Time Storm, 2009, Horse and Rider (My X), 2013-15, A Wrestling Place (1), 2016-17, Green Hills of Earth (1-3), 2017, Any Day, 2017, Proof of Concept (III), 2020: Gladstone Gallery, New York, Brussels