Carroll Dunham's marvelous, eyeless, tooth-filled, libidinal shapes in this Untitled work are representative of the figures populating his personal visual universe. He has said that such images are, on some level, "pictures of oneself." The absence of a margin on this print emphasizes the fact that Dunham's shapes cannot be contained and are part of the artist's endless theater of evolution, suggesting multiple possibilities and interpretations well beyond their comic simplicity. With such works, Dunham enriches the long tradition of expressionist abstraction by returning to the irrational world of Surrealism and expanding on the imaginary universes of such figures as artist Philip Guston.
Dunham began making prints in 1985 at Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) at the invitation of Bill Goldston, who followed Tatyana Grosman as director there in 1982. Dunham was part of a new generation of painters for whom printmaking would assume a major creative role. This is confirmed by his statement that printmaking is now "a part of the way I think." To date, he has made approximately sixty prints, at ULAE and at several other workshops.
This print owes its unusual Braille-like surface to a technique pioneered at Two Palms Press by printer David Lasry. The technique uses a 750-ton hydraulic press, formerly employed commercially for molding rubber. Rather than simply printing on paper that is laid over a woodblock, the press molds the paper under enormous pressure, creating deep, sculptural relief. The wood-grain markings seen here are a descendant of Dunham's painted abstractions on wood veneers in the 1980s. In fact, his biomorphic figures emerged from those earlier tangles of lines and shapes. Tactility and surface projections also find precedence in Dunham's paintings, as in works of the 1990s that include Styrofoam balls adhered to their surfaces.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Raimond Livasgani, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 252.