Since the late seventies, Dunham’s conceptual approach to painting has volleyed between abstraction and figuration utilizing everything from the knotted surface of wood panels to libidinous psychic manifestations to structure his compositions. As Kate Linker wrote in her essay accompanying the catalogue from a recent exhibition of Dunham’s work: “Because [his paintings] are equally inspired by Aztec and Mayan art, recent American art, pornography, and cartoons (to cite only a few sources), these pictographs indicate the long arc of Dunham’s imagination and the latitude of his visual reading habits, which range from high to low, rarified to vernacular, artistic ‘literature’ to esthetic pulp fiction.”
For the new series on view, Dunham has expanded his exploration of the pastoral landscape that he began with his original tree paintings in 2007. These trees not only sprout large flowers and leaves, but furthermore reveal themselves to be just one aspect of a complicated visual terrain populated with various figures and flora. Much like his “Mule” paintings staged the final act for the male character that occupied his work throughout recent years, Dunham’s new landscapes find their structure in the hindquarters of a female bather. His formal mediation of the art historical trope of the nude allows for the collapse of figure and ground into a myth-laden expanse of colonized psychic and formal impulses. Her anatomy becomes both a part and the principal organizing matrix of the landscape, as the fields and lakes of her environs seem to issue directly from the serial contours that formulate her composition.
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 since 2004 at Millesgarden 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. In 2008 the Addison Gallery of American Art presented a survey of his prints and an accompanying catalogue raisonne.