Jason Dunda

A Twelve-Step Program for Iconoclasm
September 7 - October 13, 2019


Media Packet [View PDF]

Installation Shots


A Twelve-Step Program for Iconoclasm features a suite of abstracted heads and figures in oil and gouache created by Chicago artist Jason Dunda. Dunda aims to seduce the viewer with rich color and deft paint handling while capturing the likeness of tragic and often problematic figures in historical and contemporary sociopolitical narratives. This assembled collection shows images of a head and shoulders in various modes of description—smeared and scraped paint while also having paint flows and clots. Not every move flatters his subjects, but not every subject deserves flattery. 

A Twelve-Step Program for Iconoclasm brings together selections from the past three years of Dunda’s painting practice. Like many of Dunda’s conceptual moves, the exhibition title is a clever contradiction. It simultaneously calling back to the Byzantine impulse to literally destroy religious figurative representations as well as the more modern usage of the term as one of progressive free thinking. Regardless, the title frames the iconoclast (Dunda, his painted subjects, or even the audience) as one who needs interrogation or even one who should be checked. In this exhibition, Dunda melts the figure into the material of paint and caricatures those who deserve his ire. The artist literally and figuratively destroys the icon and, in doing so, possibly creates new ones. Dunda's paintings capture the conflicted role of iconoclasm in the contemporary moment.



Jason Dunda is a Chicago-based Canadian painter. For the past five years, he has undertaken a project entitled Various Incidents in which he translates imagery of authority and control into portraiture abstractions. Trained in observational and historical techniques of painting, Dunda creates expressionistic busts made of polystyrene foam and other materials as models for his paintings. These foam materials are carved and sculpted with a hacksaw and decorated with handmade textile constructions. He also sources news and archival photos to create gestural abstractions in gouache on paper. Dunda is an avid researcher who delves into historical and contemporary narratives to generate his imagery. He considers the painted portrait itself to be a location of power, reserved for the elite, the rich, and the (in)famous. Dunda aims to deflate the authority of the painted bust and head but to do so through vibrant color and deft paint handling. The focus of Dunda’s conceptually-led practice is in this tension between pleasure, allure, and tragedy.

Recent projects for Dunda include A Hall of Unflattering Portraits, a solo exhibition at the MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie, Ontario; Orange at Slow in Chicago; Shared Neuroses at boundary in Chicago. International exhibits include the Heine-Onstad Art Centre in Oslo and the Kuwait Art Foundation in Kuwait City. The collections of Todd Oldham, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and the Doris McCarthy Gallery at the University of Toronto include Dunda's artwork. Recent residencies include the Corporation of Yaddo, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the SÍM Residency in Reykjavik, Iceland, and a four-month research and production residency in Paris sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts.