The work of Marcel Dzama is characterised by an immediately recognisable visual language that stems from a wide spectrum of references and artistic influences, producing as a result a universe of manifold interpretations. His prolific output of drawings, video and sculpting make him one of the most prominent artists of the current world scene.
By Efi Michalarou
Photo: La Casa Encendida Archive
Marcel Dzama’s universe through his drawings, dioramas, sculptures and video work is on presentation at 3 Galleries of La Casa Encendida in Madrid under the title “Drawing on a Revolution”. In recent years Dzama expanded his reach, and embarked upon collaboration projects with artists from other fields: bands Arcade Fire and Department of Eagles, music video and commercial director Patrick Daughters; singer-songwriter Beck, José Noé Suro’s ceramic workshop in Guadalajara, Mexico and artist Raymond Pettibon, with whom Dzama worked last year to produce the joint exhibition “Let Us Compare Mythologies”. “Drawing on a Revolution” proposes a deep dive into the artist’s universe through a trip to three different spaces, each of which corresponds to one of the different techniques employed by Dzama in recent years. In Room A we find his drawings, ranging from the earliest productions to the most recent, focusing on the theme of “revolution” on a double plane: on the one hand, drawing as revolution; on the other, the viewpoint of a period that understands revolution and believes in it, as pointed out in works like “Revolution” (2016), “The Revolution will be Female” (2017) or “Political to Poetical” (2017). Within the above room we find an area, presented in the form of a study, exhibiting a significant portion of the artist’s early drawings together with some of the many sketches that were made together with choreographer Justin Peck for the costume design of the New York Ballet in 2016. Also included are the preparatory drawings for his video “Une danse des bouffons (A Jester’s Dance)” and a mural painted by Dzama specifically for this exhibition. These ink and watercolour drawings portray dark creatures that emerge from a singular inner world: figures taken from popular tales and stories, comic books and television appear next to XIXth-century soldiersa nd terrorists, invented animals, ballet dancers and opera singers. Many of these compositions are drawn on pianola paper, which features small perforations allowing for songs to be played when the roll of paper is placed inside a mechanical piano. In the same room we also find four dioramas in which the artist puts many of his characters on display, thus going from the plane of drawing to the world of volume. Some years ago, in one such work, Dzama recreated the death of many of the characters in his early Canadian drawings, in a ceremony of farewell before his move to New York. The second space on the journey through Dzama’s work, Room B, is devoted to sculpture, and returns to many of the main themes of the artist’s production. The walls in this room are covered with the piece “The Cast and Crew of the Old Revolutions” (2017), a stretch of unbroken paper displaying the sketches of some of his costume designs, and characters in many of his films and drawings. Finally, in Room C, the video “Une danse des bouffons (A Jester’s Dance)” (2013) is screened. The work, premiered at the International Film Festival of Toronto, shows ballet dancers performing on a chessboard. Dzama makes use of this burlesque ballet to fix his attention on the figure of Brazilian artist Maria Martins, the lover of Duchamp, now played by Sonic Youth singer, Kim Gordon. Also a series of graphite drawings shows all the characters and scenes in the video. Masquerade, irony, the use of costumes and characterisation fill Marcel Dzama’s world with life and death, music, calm and violence. A cosmos in which opera singers and even nature mingle with Donald Trump himself in “The Love of All Things Golden” (2017).
Info: La Casa Encendida, Ronda de Valencia 2, Madrid, Duration: 28/917-7/1/18, Days & Hours: Tue-Sun 10:00-22:00, www.lacasaencendida.es