Into Words: The Selected Writings of Carroll Dunham

Carroll Dunham. Badlands Unlimited (D.A.P., dist.), $24.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-943263-08-0
Gleaned largely from artist Dunham’s contributions to Artforum, Bomb, and various exhibition catalogs, this collection of 31 short essays approaches 20th-century art with wit, insight, and irreverence. Comprised mostly of exhibition reviews and conversational interviews, the book generally addresses post-WWII and contemporary art, though its reach also includes Auguste Renoir, Max Ernst, and Otto Dix. Dunham’s approach is learned yet informal, and he writes of each artist or exhibition with perception and unrelenting, respectful honesty: “The volume of [Robert] Rauschenberg’s output appears to have diluted its intensity. The Guggenheim’s disappointing 1997 exhibition reinforced this notion...” His descriptive style is playful and unburdened by cliché; Renoir’s bathers are “rolling, doughy estrogen bombs animating the glowing surface of their electric Eden.” There is always substance to his sentences, and he offers insider observations about the artistic process that might elude the general critic, noting of Otto Dix, for example, that the sharp tools, acid, and metal of his etching process uncannily paralleled the weaponry Dix encountered during WWI. His subjects include art-world heavyweights such as Pablo Picasso and Rauschenberg, but he also gives generous attention to those who are lesser known, as in his lyrical reflection on a William Baziotes painting. This enjoyable and wildly eclectic selection of prose delivers a fresh perspective. B&w photos. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/28/2017
Release date: 07/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
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