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Gladstone Gallery presents new paintings from Carroll Dunham's ongoing wrestler series
Installation view, Carroll Dunham, at Gladstone Gallery, New York, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

NEW YORK, NY.- Gladstone Gallery is presenting an exhibition by Carroll Dunham, featuring new paintings from his ongoing wrestler series. Dunham’s newest groups of wrestling matches are set amidst barren landscapes, deserted for all but one single tree, wherein the aggressive men are locked into differing moments of struggle. Employing formal techniques developed throughout his career, the works exemplify Dunham’s unique ability to continually recontextualize his distinct visual language through new and recurring modes of artmaking.

The exhibition’s first group of paintings, the series Winners and Losers, is organized around an internally referential system, in which a definitive set of formal parameters informs how the figures move and interact with one another. Capturing the conclusion of their fights, these scenes depict the winners, mounted atop the losers, in varying emotional states – some are triumphant, some anguished, others more subdued. The intensity of their prior confrontations is emphasized by the overlapping layers of paint and pencil applied across the surfaces of their bodies. The artist’s brilliant pencilwork is particularly highlighted in a work such as Winners and Losers (4/8), wherein a secondary, apparitional outline of the winner shadows the finished figure. Taken in as a whole, this series both balances and juxtaposes the straightforward logic of a system of formal variables against the physical and psychological mayhem of the scenes depicted.

Other groups of interconnected paintings – Big Men and Big Men Up Close – document the dramatic actions of Dunham’s protagonists mid-fight. In the large-scale Big Men works, Dunham portrays the distress and helplessness of one man at the hands of a stronger opponent. These struggles are memorialized through the impactful scale, as well as the confident, bold outlining of the figures. The acrobatic maneuvers that force their bodies to contort within the boundaries of the picture plane further intensify the dynamism of these complex confrontations. This vitality carries into the series Big Men Up Close, where Dunham tightly crops these fights into smaller, square-format vignettes, reminiscent of earlier bodies of work, such as Edge of His World (2002- 03) and Dead Space (2005). Pushing the figures to the forefront, these works offer a more intimate view of the protagonists, and Dunham renders the stoicism and turmoil of their expressions and choreographies with tremendous detail and emotion. Throughout the works for this exhibition, Dunham demonstrates his fascination and uncanny ability to play with scale, orientation, and composition in order to create vivid, psychologically challenging works that encapsulate the complexity of his subjects’ worlds.

Carroll Dunham was born in 1949 and lives and works in New York and Connecticut. Most recently, Dunham was the subject of a major two-person exhibition at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, “Carroll Dunham / Albert Oehlen Bäume / Trees,” which recently traveled to the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany. His work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions at international institutions including Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Millesgården, Stockholm; 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; Museu Picasso, Barcelona; and The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

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