The American artist Carroll Dunham (b. 1949) had his first critical and commercial success during the early 1980s, beginning with an exhibition at Artist Space in 1981. His work was included in the 1985 Whitney Biennial and in several group exhibitions of the time, both in the United States and abroad, that explored new, organic directions in American painting.
Today, Gladstone Gallery in New York presents an exhibition of new paintings by Carroll Dunham. Featuring nine works that draw on the motifs of nude bathers and pastoral landscapes familiar from Dunham’s earlier paintings, the exhibition highlights the artist’s continuing interest in these themes. Expanding upon the visual language that characterized his previous works, Dunham demonstrates a shift in his formal decision making, adhering less strictly to the subject’s formal vocabulary and iconography, and instead allowing each work to evolve as a singular painting rather than as a work in a series.
For the works included in this exhibition, Dunham replaces the rosy female figure present in his earlier series with a stark, white, nude. Depicting the classic art-historical motif of the bather made famous by artists from Cézanne to Bonnard, Dunham inverts the familiar scene of the demure woman, replacing her with a vibrant and animated figure caught in bold poses – arms extended, hair splayed across her face. Pushing color, form, and line to create collision-like interactions between compositional elements of the painting, Dunham creates a compact tension between the interlocking forms to explore the relationship between subject and landscape, foreground and background.
First recognized for his wood veneer paintings in the 1980s, Dunham has gone on to explore the pictorial possibilities of painting and drawing, subverting the boundaries between representational imagery and abstraction. Populating his work variously with abstract appendages, bold lines, and human-like characters, Dunham has coaxed new forms out of familiar objects.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a forthcoming catalogue titled Bathers Trees Carroll Dunham, which features paintings from 2009 through 2012 and an essay by Alison Gingeras.
Carroll Dunham was born in 1949 and currently lives and works in New York and Connecticut. He has been the subject of numerous one-person exhibitions, including a mid-career retrospective at the New Museum in New York and an exhibition of paintings and sculptures at Millesgården in Stockholm. His work has been included in several Whitney Biennials and in Disparaties and Deformations: Our Grotesque, SITE Santa Fe’s fifth biennial curated by Robert Storr.
Gladstone Gallery Website