Marcel Dzama: Even the Ghost of the Past
March 6 - April 19, 2008
Opening Reception: Thursday, March 6, 2008, 6 - 8 pm
Opening on March 6, David Zwirner is pleased to present a new exhibition
by Marcel Dzama. For the last decade, Canadian-born Dzama
has shown extensively throughout North America and Europe. Transforming
519 West 19th Street into an odeum of imagination, Dzama’s
ambitious fifth solo exhibition at the gallery will include single drawings,
composite drawings, costumes, dioramas, and film.
Marcel Dzama is best known for his figurative compositions of pen
and watercolor on manila-colored paper. Bearing a characteristic
palette of muted browns, grays, greens, and reds, Dzama’s drawings
are populated by an expansive cast of human, animal, and hybrid
characters. In this exhibition distinct personalities take center stage,
most notably the masked and armed “terrorist.” In the sixteen-part
drawing Inflated Threat, 2007, this character is obsessively repeated
amongst cowboys, archers, and femmes fatales, suggesting the exaggerated
climate of fear and shoot-‘em-up mentality at the forefront
of American politics. Despite the works’ formal and psychological
David Zwirner 525 West 19th Street New York NY 10011 Tel 212 727 2070 Fax 212 727 2072 www.davidzwirner.com
complexity, the artist commonly places his fantastic personae against a blank background; avoiding a definite narrative
context in the drawings, Dzama consequently invites various interpretations.
In recent years, Dzama has expanded his practice to include work in multiple media, including painting, sculpture, and
film. Mirroring the progression in his artistic practice, the exhibition’s first room of drawings will give way to a second
room of new work in three dimensions. Concurrently inspired by the religious shrines he found in Mexico and the work
of Joseph Cornell, Dzama has created a series of five dioramas. Recessed into the wall, the works recall a child’s puppet
theatre or the traditional didactic displays found in natural history museums. Countering the mode of presentation’s
innocuous associations, the works ultimately reveal violent quirks, whimsical fetishes, macabre humor, and sardonic
political criticism. For the colossal On the banks of the red river, 2007-2008, the artist has employed nearly 300 ceramic
sculptures. Recreating the apocalyptic cover image of his 2005 exhibition catalogue, The Course of Human History
Personified, this work is replete with greedy aristocratic hunters, gigantic disembodied heads, flying banshees, and a
motley mix of creatures caught in the throes of death.
For this exhibition, the artist has also created a sculptural work that pays homage to Marcel Duchamp’s Étant donnés,
1946-66. Like Duchamp, Dzama has created an intricate tableau only visible to viewers through a small peephole.
The artist imagines what could have provoked Duchamp’s famous scene of a nude splayed in the woods. Evoking David
and Goliath, Dzama’s fanciful interpretation proposes a wily fox is to blame, knocking-out both the nude and her
lover with a slingshot. Dzama, thus effectively, and comically, demystifies one of art history’s most enigmatic works.
In the final room, the artist will present his silent film The Lotus Eaters, 2005. Recalling a bygone cinematic era, the
black-and-white short will be accompanied, on select days, by a live pianist. The title suggests the mythical race,
whose favored food induced a dreamy and contented forgetfulness, found in Homer’s Odyssey. While the film’s narrative
structure mimics that of Dante’s Divine Comedy, as a tortured artist travels the underworld of his creations in
search of his deceased wife. Using a combination of 8mm and 16mm film, Dzama also incorporates footage shot by
a Fisher-Price PixelVision camcorder - the artist’s childhood camera. Embodying the unique combination of homespun
aesthetic and referential complexity that characterizes Dzama’s production, the film makes vivid not only the
characters who occupy the artist’s imagination, but also the essential nature of the creative process.
A fully illustrated catalogue will be published in conjunction with the exhibition.
Schedule of live piano performances: March 6, 6-8 pm; March 8, 1-6 pm; March 15, 1-6 pm; March 22, 1-6 pm; March
26, 10 am-6 pm; March 27,10 am-6 pm; March 28, 10 am-6 pm; March 29, 10 am-6 pm; April 5, 1-6 pm; April 12, 1-6
pm; April 19, 1-6 pm
Press preview with the artist, March 6 at 5 pm. For information contact firstname.lastname@example.org