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Carroll Dunham

Five Pieces

1984

Carroll Dunham began painting during the 1980s, making pictures on wood veneer that incorporate the wood grain itself as a compositional element. He painted on ordinary pieces of laminated pine, and later on panels covered with more exotic veneers; for Five Pieces, he used a variety of wood, including cherry, walnut, maple, and zebrano, the latter of which has a combination of light and dark grains that give it a striped appearance. As Ken Johnson wrote in his review of these early works for the New York Times, “What these paintings add up to is a kind of delirious, barely contained psychic pluralism. Various dualities and contradictions play out: between wood and paint; abstraction and representation; geometry and biology; the phallic and the vaginal; body and mind; nature and culture.”

Carroll Dunham (b. 1949, New Haven, Connecticut; lives and works in New York and Connecticut)
Five Pieces, 1984
Casein, dry pigment, Flashe, casein emulsion, carbon, and pencil on cherry, walnut, zebrano, maple, and American walnut
60 x 45 in.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Gift of Daniel Weinberg

The most basic thing to say about painting: it’s a limiting condition within which absolutely anything goes. But it’s a negative premise. It’s not, “I like painting because it’s so wonderful—it can do all these wonderful things.” It’s more, “I like painting because it’s so limited, it’s so uptight, so old and so flat and so rectilinear.” Within that, you’re good to go. —Carroll Dunham

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