Corey Dunlap: San Diego CityBeat

Corey Dunlap’s sculptural seduction

Local artist combines abstract photography and digital reliefs

by Seth Combs


There’s something immediately unnerving about the works of Corey Dunlap. The Alabama native seems to acknowledge this fact even while perusing his own works at the 1805 Gallery. He glances at “Coming ‘Round the Mountain,” one of the more scintillating and bright pieces at his solo exhibition that’s on display through July 27 at the Little Italy gallery.

“The material surface is seductive and the colors are seductive, but the forms themselves are somewhat repulsive,” Dunlap says. “Well, maybe not repulsive.”

Even with his more aesthetically pleasing pieces, Dunlap’s abstract, digital photographs are still jarring. Evolved over years of experimenting with digital modeling software programs, Dunlap’s pieces are unique in that they manage to seamlessly incorporate a variety of mediums. This fact is not immediately evident, but the more time the viewer spends with Dunlap’s works, the more evident it is that he’s much more than an abstract photo artist. He’s a sculptor, as well as a photographer; a digital artist, as well as a luminist. 

“I always wanted the work to be about that visual seduction. How you seduce people into being interested in that you’re doing,” Dunlap says. 

His talents have not gone unrecognized. In addition to shows at UC San Diego, where Dunlap was working on his MFA, his art was recently on display at Bodies in Trouble, an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. In the pieces, tubular, almost intestinal-like sculptures rest and recline on rigid boxes and in front of a dueling backdrop. In pieces such as “The Coronation” and “Folie a Deux,” the main, explorative dichotomy is certainly between the sculpture and the what/how/why in which it’s displayed.

“I just didn’t want there to be a division between the main object and the stand or support… what is the real subject? Is it the print? Is  it the tube? The background?”

Still, the way in which the sculpture is lit within the photo itself is just as important. Shadows fall on just the right places, working to both highlight particular aspects of the sculpture and almost working to make the viewer believe that they’re actually looking at a photograph of a real sculpture. The fact that the pieces are framed in textured, homemade frames—almost sculptures within themselves—only adds to the many contrasting elements.

“The ultimate goal was to have a photograph and really think about it that way,” says Dunlap, who describes the works as “digital reliefs.” “But I like the idea of people thinking that there was a sculpture and lights and a camera I position… it’s like they’re created specifically for a camera.”