- Carroll Dunham
- The Third Green Planet
- signed and dated June-July 1997; signed, titled, and dated 1997 on the stretcher
- mixed media on linen
Metro Pictures, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in November 2004
New York, Metro Pictures, Carroll Dunham, October - November 1997
East Lansing, Michigan State University, Kresge Art Museum, Art in the 'Toon Age, September - November 2002
Dan Cameron, "Carroll Dunham: Metro Pictures," Artforum International, Vol. 36, No. 7, March 1998
Richard Kalina, "Dunham's Dystopia - Artist Carroll Dunham," Art in America, March 1998
Carroll Dunham’s canvases of cartoonish figuration present a fascinating world of formal imagination suffused with a strain of aggression as well as comic angst. These humorous yet complex paintings often depict whimsical, cartoonlike monsters and machines that while appearing innocuous, relies on a darker, heavier theme of power and destruction. The present work, The Third Green Planet
, is part of 9 large paintings that Dunham showed at Metro Pictures in 1997, and is a fine example of the artist’s ability to present contemporary subjects with references to painters and artists who dominated the scene a generation ago. In The Third Green Planet,
cactus-like creatures are perched precariously on a large, vaguely skull-shaped mass of green that seems to be lurching and shaking itself to pieces. Dunham’s comic approach on one hand evokes Pop art as well as other incursions of popular culture into high art (such as graffiti) yet the figurative content are executed in a subtle, abstracted style that is wholly unique to the artist’s artistic oeuvre. These paintings, for all their unruly figurative content, are full of lovely calligraphic flourishes that are carefully layered with pigments and a range of elegant smears, stains and drips. While forms are simplified, the sophisticated compositions are marked by a witty mix of central organization offset by asymmetrical components. With only one single dominant color, Dunham methodically manipulates color by distributing the paint densities of the central orb so that the resulting surface is a panache of chromatic dynamism both visually intriguing and satisfying.
Dunham’s art has been compared with a range of masters ranging from Willem de Kooning to Jean Dubuffet as well as Philip Guston. Indeed, the artist's whimsical imageries draw numerous parallels with the works of Philip Guston's late work, notably his crude and combative paintings of hooded, cigar-smoking Klansmen, body parts, bugs, art materials and studio detritus. While many figurative painters have aspired to achieve the expressionist bent so iconic of Guston’s masterpieces, Dunham is one of the few to succeed in pushing Guston's ideas forward while staying closely within that stylistic idiom.