Wrestling with Artist Carroll DunhamPublished 17 May 2018
“There’s no goal to being an artist—you keep doing it and then, in theory, one dies,” says Carroll Dunham, who Allan Schwartzman describes as one of the greatest painters of the past 40 years.
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.
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“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.”
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; Drammens Museum,nDrammen, 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; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.
co-founder of AAP & chairman of Sotheby's Global Fine Arts
Allan Schwartzman is a Founder and Principal of AAP. He brings to the company more than 20 years’ experience in advising some of the world’s most influential and sophisticated collectors in forming their holdings of contemporary art, both individually and in conjunction with their stewardship of major museums.
Schwartzman is also widely respected as an independent curator, most notably for Instituto Inhotim, the visionary contemporary art park set within a 5,000-acre botanical garden in Brazil. As creative director and chief curator of Inhotim, he has been central to developing the collection of the renowned institution and commissioning its signature site-specific works by artists including Chris Burden, Giuseppe Penone, Matthew Barney, Doris Salcedo, Doug Aitken, Rivane Neuenschwander, Olafur Eliasson and Rirkrit Tiravanija, including projects that could not have been realized anywhere else.
Known equally as a tastemaker in contemporary art and an authority on the art market, Schwartzman is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, Art Basel and notable events around the world.
Schwartzman was a founding staff member of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City and served as curator from 1977 to 1980. He has written extensively about art for publications including The New Yorker, the New York Times, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Artforum and Art in America and was a contributing editor of Connoisseur. He served as a board member of Franklin Furnace from 1980 to 2000 and currently serves on the Board of Artists Space, one of New York’s premier alternative spaces, having also served as the board’s president.
executive editor of In Other Words
Charlotte Burns is the editor of In Other Words, our weekly newsletters and podcasts. She was previously the US news and market editor for The Art Newspaper, as well as a regular correspondent for publications such as the Guardian and Monocle. Previously, she worked with the London dealer Anthony d’Offay on special projects. For several years, she was a consultant at the cultural communications agency, Bolton & Quinn. She also worked at Hauser & Wirth in London.
Burns received a Masters degree (with Merit) from the Courtauld Institute in Art and Cultural Politics in Germany, 1890-1945, as well as a first-class B.A. honors degree in English and History of Art from Birmingham University. She moved to New York in 2010.
The live record
Behind the Scenes with Carroll Dunham
Where to look
Significant Works by Carroll Dunham