"Mesokingdom" is Carroll Dunham's new series of black and white mixed media paintings that each presents a central figure in profile wearing a suit jacket and top hat with teeth bared and a bulbous trumpet of a nose. In each of the paintings, the same character journeys along the bottom and foreground of the painting while the background changes from night to day, from seaside to hillside, from near to far, and from minimal to chaotic. The figure's passage in front of a changing backdrop, as if crossing a stage, contributes to a sense of episodic narrative, and as in the chaotic "Meso-Kingdom Six (Lost)," an environment of pathos and psychodrama. The character additionally seems to lead a humorously cinematic demonstration of painterly options– figure/ground, symbols, marks, and gestures.
Dunham's work, a combination of process-based abstraction and psycho-social content, begins with only a vague mental "picture" and premise that completes itself in the execution of Dunham's signature cartoonish vernacular and painterly virtuosity.
A retrospective of Dunham's work is currently being organized by Dan Cameron and Lisa Phillips for the New Museum in New York for 2003. Dunham's paintings have been most recently exhibited at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, California, Atle Gerhardsen in Berlin, White Cube in London, and his drawings at Nolan/Eckman Gallery in New York. Dunham's' work is included in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; the Tate Gallery, London; and the Albertina Museum, Vienna.