Gladstone Gallery presents an exhibition of new works by Carroll Dunham. This show features large-scale paintings from the artist’s Wrestlers series, which demonstrate Dunham’s continued exploration of and fascination with interpretations of the nude body with particular attention to the male form.
Made over the last year, these paintings reflect a clear new direction for the artist through the lens of the distinctive approach to painting that Dunham has employed and tinkered with throughout his career. Using the visual language of mythological depictions of wrestling, mined from art historical sources and his own memory, these paintings propose new through lines in Dunham’s practice that are both formal and autobiographical in nature.
Providing male counterparts to the female figures Dunham has continuously returned to, the wrestlers introduce a variety of visceral and psychological narratives that incorporate an amalgam of recurring themes prevalent throughout his oeuvre, namely playfulness, violence, and sexuality. Set in vibrant and abstracted landscapes adorned with trees, flowers, birds, and dogs, the male protagonists brutally assault one another, gently hold each other, or lie lifeless on the rugged terrain. Each composition provides a unique insight into the physical and mental struggles among these competing figures, either through straightforward scenes of men attacking each other, or through the documentation of defeated men left for dead. This psychology is intensified through the formal framing of the men within the rectangular bounds of the canvas, as well as through the repeated insertion of jet black birds that witness the violent matches and aftermath of each battle, predatorily looming over the turbulent scenes.
Though the wrestler paintings present a new approach to less explored motifs, these works reuse and play with a visual vocabulary found throughout Dunham’s paintings and drawings. For instance, in Any Day (2017), the viewer is transported to an unidentifiable technicolor terrain of rolling hills where scale, gravity and reality are rendered incongruous, a signature setting for the artist. The composition is split in half by an S-shaped outline of grass-covered hills filled with cartoonish florae. Beyond this verdant topography, Dunham depicts a nude woman bathing, an important recurring character in his earlier figurative works. By combining this array of familiar figures and settings with his newfound male protagonists, Dunham’s recent works demonstrate his ever-explorative vision and curiosity in depicting forms in space.
A forthcoming catalogue with an essay by Catherine Taft will accompany the exhibition.
Carroll Dunham was born in 1949 and lives and works in New York and Connecticut. Dunham’s work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions at international institutions including Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Millesgården, Stockholm; Drammens Museum, Drammen, Norway; a mid-career retrospective was held at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York. Dunham has also been included in notable group exhibitions including multiple Whitney Biennials and SITE Santa Fe; and at institutions including Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museu Picasso, Barcelona; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.