Contemporary Art

Wrestling With Artist Carroll Dunham

Art is a “kind of lustful driving forwards” for Dunham, who has moved from abstraction to figuration over the course of his varied career. Works from his Wrestlers series are currently on show at Gladstone Gallery in New York (until 16 June). “I wanted to try to find a male equivalent to the women that I had been drawing and painting, which I had thought of as being rather primeval in some way,” Dunham says. “They are naked white guys beating the crap out of each other. I’m not claiming any special relevance or meaning for these things. They just allow me to keep making paintings.”

Dunham talks to Schwartzman and host Charlotte Burns about how his life and work – and the broader art community – have changed since moving from the bustle of New York, where he spent his early career, to the solitude of rural Connecticut.

Known for his incisive writing about other artists’ work, Dunham discusses how this exercise has helped his practice. The essays included in the recently published Into Words: The Selected Writings of Carroll Dunham (2017) represented “a diagram of my issues with myself and things I was grappling with in my own work”, he says.

“In Other Words” is a presentation of AAP and Sotheby’s, produced by

I’ve been making paintings for over 40 years, which is a very different place to be than where I began... I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and become a different guy, a different artist, making a different kind of work.
—Carroll Dunham

From the Podcast...

“There’s no goal. There’s no sort of: ‘A-ha, I finally achieved whatever.’ It’s a kind of lustful driving forward.”

“I’ve certainly had plenty of moments of wondering how stupid this is, and what a complete waste of time, and what a terrible artist I am, et cetera, et cetera. You know, that sort of goes with the territory.”

“I started realizing it’s such a horrible thing to do that you can’t really call it your hobby, because it’s just too horrible. It would be like having self-mutilation as your hobby.”


More on Carroll Dunham

Carroll Dunham was born in 1949 and lives and works in New York and Connecticut. Dunham’s work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions at international institutions including Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Millesgården, Stockholm; and Drammens Museum, Drammen, Norway. A mid-career retrospective was held at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York. Dunham has also been included in notable group exhibitions including multiple Whitney Biennials and SITE Santa Fe; and at institutions including Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; MuseuPicasso, Barcelona; and The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

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