Carroll Dunham - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Thursday, November 17, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Baldwin Gallery, Aspen
    Gladstone Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    "Drawing is the literal and figurative lifeline of Carroll Dunham’s art. For him imagining drawing and drawing imagination cannot be separated, nor can formal deliberation and spontaneous invention. More emphatically than any of his generational peers Dunham renounced the bans imposed on the subjective acts of the hand the artists Pop and Minimal in the 1960s. With lyric vengeance he has reinstated the erotics of art.” (Klaus Kurtess, “Drawn into Consciousness,” Carroll Dunham: Paintings, New York, 2003, p. 26) Undercurrents of rude sexuality and unstable eroticism, masculinity, colorful violence, comic aggression and conspicuously bad taste have been fibers in the tapestry of Carroll Dunham’s artwork from the very beginning; since the early 1980s these elements have seeped from the surfaces of paintings that marry the graphic qualities of Pop with the process-oriented approach of conceptualism and wash over both with the impolite lustfulness of painterly gesture in a career-long conflation of abstract and figurative styles.

    Despite lingering hints of the organic, wood-grain forms that characterized his early abstract work, more recent pieces such as Green Flowers (5), 2010, tend toward a crisper, cleaner figuration, depicting violent, intensely animated dystopias in simple, childlike terms reminiscent of comic illustration. Here a simple tree has taken on perverse proportions with no clear perspective, leaves and flowers erupt from the boughs and up from the ground with seemingly reckless abandon. The whole earth is an abstraction cut through with Dunham’s particular figurative elements. Green Flowers (5) is a charged abomination imbued with Twombly-esque whorls, Warhol-like daisies and Nauman’s body impolitic. While teased with recognizable imagery, the characters in Dunham’s paintings occupy a unique territory somewhere between form and formlessness. The current lot is a defining example of how the content in Dunham’s paintings is replete with contradictions, defying easy categorization, eschewing genres, and pushing the boundaries of taste.

  • 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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Green Flowers (5)

signed "C. Dunham" lower right; further dated "April-June 2010" upper left; signed, titled and dated "C. Dunham 2010 "Green Flowers (5)" 2010" on the stretcher
mixed media on linen
66 x 51 in. (167.6 x 129.5 cm.)
Executed in 2010.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $200,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2016