Carroll Dunham

  • Elizabeth Murray, Do the Dance, 2005, oil on canvas, 9' 5“ x 11' 3”.


    PAINTING IN NEW YORK during the second half of the 1970s was a mess. The self-analytical, radically empty work of artists like Jo Baer, Robert Ryman, Brice Marden, and Robert Mangold, which had been the main chance in the not-yet-fully-played-out arc of modernist painting, was proving generative primarily for those artists and a tight phalanx of sympathetic curators and critics, while its implications of closure made its absorption by a generation of enraptured younger artists quite problematic. The art schools and galleries were loaded with mannered attempts to thread some needle of original

  • Max Ernst, Sambesiland, 1921, photographic enlargement of photomontage with ink mounted on paperboard, 6 13/16 x 9 1/8".

    Max Ernst

    Locating and mapping the human unconscious was a primary plotline within the braided narratives of modernism, and it fell to the Surrealist painters to represent the inchoate structures and unverbalized agendas of this newly explored dark continent. The texture of the twentieth century is fading in our memory, as the talking cure listens to Prozac and the end of history scrambles not to become the history of the end—but the fortuitously timed Max Ernst retrospective reminded us that conditions of epic urgency surround us and that art is allowed to claim them as its contextual domain.


  • Barry Le Va, Continuous and Related Activities; Discontinued by the Act of Dropping, 1967/1990. Installation view, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, 2005.


    BARRY LE VA’S ART OF THE LATE 1960s SO PERFECTLY typified the advanced aesthetic strategies of that turbulent moment that one almost feels he would have to have been invented if he didn’t already exist. His sculptures represented a heightened, take-no-prisoners distillation of ideas drifting in the air, which in relative isolation and with almost telepathic clairvoyance he synthesized in an extremely original way. In November 1968, the completely unknown, twenty-seven-year-old California artist appeared on the cover of Artforum, with an image of a large stretch of wooden floor, scattered with

  • Joe Zucker, Merlin and His Son Putting It Together, 1977, acrylic, cotton, and Rhoplex on canvas, 96 x 96".


    The history of the New York art world in the 1970s is assumed to be clear but is actually not well understood. So many subsequent developments had roots, precursors, or strange John the Baptist–like harbingers that seemed to dissolve and fade but in fact opened the way for much more widely noted phenomena. The centrality and longevity of the key artists classified as post-Minimalist are not questioned, but major figures of so-called Photorealism, Pattern and Decoration, New Image, and Bad Painting have not been coherently slotted into the narrative of the recent past. The explosion of the art

  • Top row, left to right: Robert Storr (photo: Dawoud Bey), Carroll Dunham, Helmut Federle (photo: Elfi Semotan), Tim Griffin, Jutta Koether (photo: Stefano Giovannini). Bottom row: Monique Prieto (photo: D. Ingres), Lane Relyea, Terry Winters (photo: Jen Nelson), Lisa Yuskavage, Jonathan Lasker (photo: Barbara Probst).


    As the 1970s gave way to the ’80s, the slogan “return to painting” was as often heard in the discussion around contemporary art as the counter-mantra, the “death of painting.” In the last issue of Artforum, a group comprising mostly critics and art historians opened our two-part examination of painting in the ’80s and beyond with a look back at the death-of-painting debate that raged at the beginning of the decade. For this month’s pendant discussion introduced by ROBERT STORR, we assembled a second panel, largely made up of painters and curators—and asked them to tell us where painting has


    LIVING ARTISTS HAVE LONG MADE for conflicted subjects of museum retrospectives, as Ed Ruscha's drawing I Don't Want No Retro Spective testified on the cover of his first retrospective catalogue, in 1982. Institutional laurels can lend an eerie historicity to a career in full bloom (and the newly popular euphemism “major survey” isn't fooling anyone). But the historical perspective can be a boon to artists too, offering them a singular opportunity to consider the development of their work—and their changing relationship to the work of others. With a twenty-year “survey” of his paintings opening

  • Peter Cain

    PETER CAIN DIED on January 5, 1997, at the age of thirty-seven. He had a cerebral hemorrhage in his sleep, lingered in a coma for a few days, and was gone.

    His work was widely seen but not too widely known. He’d had five one-person exhibitions in New York and California since 1990. He was in the 1993 and 1995 Whitney Biennials, so he had “respect,” and a lot of warm bodies had passed in front of his work, but his serious audience remained small—small enough that we mostly knew who each other were. His paintings and drawings are odd and special, and they’ve always polarized people.

    An occasional


    AT THIS WRITING four vertical paintings, one tondo, and one large horizontal painting by Carroll Dunham are in varying stages of restless completion. The vertical paintings are the ones that pose the “real dilemma.”1 Dunham has always forged a shifting symbiosis of formal discipline and intuitive permissiveness; becoming ever more pronounced, the latter has now propelled something “more figurative” to the fore in his work. With the intimation of a figure comes the possibility of a literary, even narrative reading that would be alien to an artist so totally committed to a purely visual, nonverbal

  • The Appeal of the Head Onion Peel

    IN THE LATE ’70s I had a job a few blocks from the Modern, and I would go there often during my lunch hour. I was drawn more and more to Miró’s The Birth of the World, 1925, which was in the permanent collection. It spoke directly to problems I was encountering in my own painting, and it became my point of access to his work.

    The position of The Birth of the World in the artist’s growth becomes much clearer in this exhibition. I take the title at face value, and I think the genesis to which it refers is both cosmic and personal. Beginning around 1924 Miró gradually cut himself free from most of