Carroll Dunham - 20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Afternoon Session New York Tuesday, December 8, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Jablonka Galerie, Cologne
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in June 1990

  • Exhibited

    Cologne, Jablonka Galerie, Carroll Dunham: Paintings and Drawings, March 23 - April 21, 1991, n.p. (illustrated)
    New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, The Last Decade, American Artists of the 80’s, September 15 - October 27, 1990, pp. 82, 136 (illustrated, p. 83)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I’ve always been drawing shapes and filling my paintings up with shapes. But I began to see that the shape and its surrounding and the relationship between the shape and its surrounding could be the painting. That seemed like a beautiful idea to me because it was so clear. One to one between me and the painting, between me and the shape.” – Carroll Dunham

    For over three decades, Carroll Dunham has honed a unique vocabulary of painting that explores the relationship and tension between abstraction and figuration. Borrowing equally from the realms of Surrealism, Pop Art, graffiti and even cartoon imagery, Dunham’s distinctive paintings introduce disorder in an experience of painting that is at once accomplished and uncivilized. In Dunham’s singular universe, images of growth and destruction converge in vibrant pictorial landscapes that exalt the inextricable relationship between the beautiful and the grotesque.

    The 1980s was a pivotal decade in the development of Dunham’s artistic practice. During these years, the artist began incorporating his characteristically bodily shapes that occupy a unique territory somewhere between form and formlessness. Executed in 1989, Green Extension is teased with recognizable imagery that inhabits and pushes up against the borders of the pictorial frame. Rendered in a vivid, Play-Doh palette of reds, blues, greens and yellows, the canvas teems with biomorphic shapes that converge into one another and border on the immaterial. Dunham exposes the false dichotomy between abstraction and figuration, as corporeal features are elongated, warped and twisted until they take on new forms within Dunham’s unique visual language. “In my private lexicon I call them shapes,” Dunham explains. “They probably have aspects of them that are like characters. They certainly have approached having some kind of personality at times. But they are first and foremost shapes in a figure ground relationship” (Carroll Dunham, quoted in Betsy Sussler, “Carroll Dunham: Artists in Conversation”, BOMB, Winter 1990, online).

    A riotous assemblage of bodily forms, Green Extension is a hallucinatory dreamscape that bends genres. Here, the intimate encounters the brazenly crass in an idiosyncratic display of lurid imagination that borders on the obscene. Replete with contradictions, Green Extension is richly associative and ripe with painterly bravura, ultimately defying easy categorization 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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Property from a Distinguished Midwestern Collection


Green Extension

signed and dated "October - November 1989 Carroll Dunham" center right
vinyl, acrylic and pencil on canvas
62 1/2 x 78 3/4 in. (158.8 x 200 cm)
Executed in 1989.

$150,000 - 200,000 

Contact Specialist

Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York

1 212 940 1250

20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Afternoon Session

New York 8 December 2020