Intriguing Peek into Carroll Dunham's Vibrant Mind
By: David Pagel
With nearly 400 works, “Carroll Dunham: A Drawing Survey” stands out as one of the year’s largest shows. It’s also one of the best.
Arranged chronologically at Blum & Poe, the 30-year survey’s intimate pictures give visitors a good long glimpse into the New York painter’s consciousness as it struggles to find its footing, hits its stride, improvises freely, gets stuck in its comfort zone and then breaks free, spitting out works whose ugly beauty is troubling, indefensible and unforgettable.
You may not want to live in Dunham’s head, but it’s a great place to visit.
The journey starts slowly in the first of four adjoining galleries, which contains about 100 drawings Dunham made from 1982 to 1994. Some are on wood veneer, whose manufactured knots are the perfect partners for the kinds of shapes Dunham favors: raw, simple ones that are not artsy or expressive but simply there.
Urgently penciled scribbles become lumpy forms that appear to be groping, probing and rubbing against their ambiguously scaled surroundings. The sense of searching embodied by Dunham’s malformed organisms matches his quest to find his art’s purpose.