March 25, 2008

Self-hallucination suggesting a multiple organ transplant performed by a surgeon with a degree in Surrealism: Carroll Dunham's early work

"Self-hallucination which initially suggests a multiple organ transplant performed by a surgeon with a degree in Surrealism" is how Klaus Kertess described Dunham's aesthetic back in 1983. In the NYTimes, Ken Johnson writes that many elements seem to arise from an instinctive, quasi-primitive intuition, but other parts suggest a more intellectually sophisticated play with the codes of Modern painting. "In some works organic forms are entwined around straight-edged, horizontal stripes. In others there are passages of brushy Abstract Expressionistic marks or lines defining Cubist spaces. Confettilike fields of colored dots hark back to Pointillism, while cartoon outlines of bulbous forms evoke Pop Art’s appropriation of comic books. R. Crumb’s underground comic drawing is in the mix, as is the classic Surrealism of Dalí and Miró. What these paintings add up to is a kind of delirious, barely contained psychic pluralism. Various dualities and contradictions play out: between wood and paint; abstraction and representation; geometry and biology; the phallic and the vaginal; body and mind; nature and culture. In contrast to the monochrome painters of the ’70s (Brice Marden and Robert Ryman) and the Neo-Expressionists of the ’80s (Julian Schnabel and Anselm Kiefer), Mr. Dunham did not try to achieve formal or stylistic unity in these works. Painting was a joy-riding vehicle for realizing and delighting in the contradictions and complexities of consciousness." Read more.

"Carroll Dunham: Paintings on Wood, 1982-87,” at Skarstedt Gallery, New York, NY. Through April 5.

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