EVE WOOD: WRITING


Carroll Dunham at Daniel Weinberg Gallery
Flash Art, May 2004
By Eve Wood


Carroll Dunham's newest paintings on view at Daniel Weinberg Gallery, are exquisitely rendered "composites," as he calls them, of oddly claustrophobic imaginative spaces built up in a palette of blacks, browns, pinks and dirty whites. The images reference parts of the body, i.e. "Composite Image (Tooth)," and while there are definitive elements in each painting that suggest the human body, the shapes seem also to derive from small interiors, or rooms inside the artist's brain.

"Composite Image (Mouth)" constructs a foreground in white, amorphous pink shapes closing in on the sides like gums, and a strange gate which could be a tongue. These new images, and this one in particular, are sprung from the familiar Dunham lexicon of bizarre constructions and super-sized Michelin characters whose armature very nearly creaks into oblivion. Like Philip Guston, Dunham's strategy seems to derive from an inherently narrative impulse, and while there are no overtly strange beings in these paintings, the shapes themselves become characters in an amazingly imaginative continuum sustained purely through color, form and the use of space.

There is also great wit here. Dunham's "Composite Image (Hat)" is the most startling example of this, the hat again operating as a character, a small, awkwardly shaped square atop what might be a balding man's pink scalp. This image, as with the others, is loosely rendered, yet the image itself and the space around it, is tight as a drum, and very specific.

Dunham has once again re-translated his own unique and burgeoning landscape where oddly misanthropic creatures grow despite themselves and the rules for survival are unknowable, subject only to the whims and shifting tectonic plates of Dunham's imagination.