Walking the line between representational abstraction and pure expressionism, the work of American painter Carroll Dunham works in a language that incorporates his unique viewpoint and artistic background into the classical formats of portraiture and landscape.
In his current solo show at Gladstone Gallery in New York, Dunham revisits the motif of the bather, the longstanding muse of painters across the ages. In Dunham’s works, however, the bather becomes a format for abstraction, a jumping off point for the artist to explore his own inclinations towards perspective, color and form. While playing with familiar tropes, few of the landscapes on view could be deemed recognizable; Dunham’s trees and figures are warped beyond easy classification, and the visceral contrasts in color call to mind a otherworldly environment.
Eschewing his previous subjects, Dunham’s bathers here are a pale, ghostly white, and their bodies splay out in awkward imitations of human movement. In one painting, the bather struggles to climb out of quicksand, leg jutting out awkwardly from her body, and abruptly disappearing behind a branch. This strange sense of discontinuity works its way throughout the works on view, underlining Dunham’s unwillingness to patiently stay within the bounds of a specific style or conceptual framework.
Subjecting his canvases to a playful disregard for formal artistic conventions, Dunham’s work on view continually plays with the expectations of his audience, and the expectations of his chosen subject. Turning his intersections of form, perspective and color into sites of violent interaction, Carroll Dunham, creates new ways to think about painting, and new ways to execute it.
Showcasing the evolution of his personal aesthetic language into dynamic new directions, the paintings on view are a fitting addition to an already impressive body of work. The show is on view at Gladstone Gallery until January 19th, and is accompanied by a forthcoming catalog of paintings from 2009 to 2012 and an essay by Alison Gingeras.
—D. CreahanCarroll Dunham Website Gladstone Gallery