Carroll Dunham - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, November 11, 2009 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Ghislaine Hussenot, Paris

  • Catalogue Essay

    Carroll Dunham’s graphic, semi-figurative paintings are instantly recognizable in their unsettling mixture of cheeky cartoon-like characters and chromatic, vivid color. His work is an explosion of psycho-sexual imagery and is saturated with aggressive energy. Dunham synthesizes various schools of paintings, borrowing from Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop to create amorphous shapes that evolve into figures suddenly grotesque and hyper sexualized. As you peel away the layers of the canvas, a deeper sense of consciousness is revealed, and one becomes very self aware as various psycho-sexual drives penetrate the surface from below. In the 1990s, his work began to morph organic forms with human characteristics, a child-like hand, or a protruding nose suddenly appeared on the canvas before disappearing into its neighboring form. The paint melts into strange shapes of body parts, one finds oneself disoriented and questioning what is figure and what is background, whether it is male or female.
    As included in the present lot, Another Island, 1989-99, the phallusnosed character is the most well-known of Dunham’s forms. He is a wanderer through mountains of trash, a sailor peering through the landscape of dirt and waste. We don’t know whether he is lost or doomed, or simply without purpose or end. His company on this journey, the second figure, is strange and unsettling, rounded shapes penetrate the silhouette and we suddenly recognize hints of luscious lips, a supple breast, and chattering teeth. She is partially submerged in water, wading her way along their journey, while he floats in his make-shift boat and peers into the distance. They are perhaps the actors on the stage of sexual conflict amidst warfare or disaster. “Driven equally by rage, anxiety and hilarity, his paintings deliver an uncommonly potent combination of formal punch, narrative intrigue and metaphorical resonance” (Ken Johnson, “Suggestive Forms that Come out of the Plywoodwork,” New York Times, March 25, 2008).

  • Artist Biography

    Carroll Dunham

    American • 1949

    Satire and sexuality meet Carroll Dunham's vivid brush in the artist's often large-scale fantasy worlds. His eye-popping cartoonish veneer takes a cue from Philip Guston while his primitive "visual language" of faceless figures continues a long line of tradition—think back to Paul Cézanne and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

    Though Dunham jumps between abstraction, figuration, pop, surrealism and cartoon, his works almost exclusively center on the subject of women's sexuality. He also favors painting, though he has delved into prints, works-on-paper and sculpture. His paintings can be seen as contemporary variations on nineteenth-century portraiture of women bathing, injected with similar concerns of those classical and early modernist artists.

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Another Island


Acrylic, enamel, pastel and pencil on linen.

60 x 77 in. (152.4 x 195.6 cm).

Signed “Carroll Dunham” center top; dated “1998 1999” upper right; signed, titled and dated “Carroll Dunham ‘Another Island’ 1998-99” on the stretcher.

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $104,500

Contemporary Art Part I

12 Nov 2009
New York