Following his participation in an exhibition of contemporary artists working with watercolor at P.S.1, Carroll Dunham was invited to install a solo show of abstract works at Artists Space.
The works shown, though technically abstract, bore signs of the type of figuration which would become Dunham’s signature in later years. Despite their wide range of conceivable references, from Surrealism to Abstract-Expressionism (nearly literalizing Hoffman’s push-pull theory of painted space), Dunham has rejected symbolic readings of his works. Rather than employing gestural abstraction as a means of accessing the spirit or unconscious, Dunham enacts the reverse, subjecting that idiom to a complex, though subjective, system logic and rules which define the form of his paintings. In an interview published in BOMB in 1990, Dunham explained, “The things that come up in my paintings tend to be much more an expression of an attitude about process than they [are] the expression of an attitude about subject matter.”
Although this was Dunham’s first show at Artists Space, he was no stranger. At the time, Dunham was in a relationship with artist Laurie Simmons, whose solo show at Artists Space had taken place two years prior. In fact, Dunham had helped to initiate her exhibition, sending Simmons’ photographs to Helene Winer by way of a friend on the Artists Space staff.