Influenced by folklore, fairy tales and religious iconography, Canadian artist Marcel Dzama's otherworldly ink and watercolour drawings investigate storytelling, desire and identity with a dark twist.Read More
Born in 1974 in Winnipeg, Canada, Marcel Dzama received his BFA from the University of Manitoba in 1997.
While at university, he founded The Royal Art Lodge, a collective of Winnipeg-based artists including Michael Dumontier, Neil Farber, and Jon Pylypchuk. The artists would meet once a week to draw and paint, often producing collaborative work in response to each other's practice. The group became a crucial platform for launching the careers of some of its members.
Dzama's creative output is influenced by the dramatic regional flora and fauna surrounding Winnipeg. Other early influences include William Blake, Francisco Goya, and Canadian Inuit artist Nancy Pukingrnak Aupaluktuq.
Dzama's curiosity with folk vernacular has led him to depict bizarre and fantastical hybrids of animals and humans in his work. His surreal, dreamlike illustrations show figures such as dancing bandits, pipe-smoking snowmen, cloaked bears and tree people. Dzama's anthropomorphic characters are playful and evocative; the eccentric communities that he portrays are reminiscent of fairy tales and children's stories, but with a dark twist that explores adult themes such as politics, psychology and sexuality. Sometimes erotic and often violent, Marcel Dzama's imaginary worlds are framed as dioramas and polyptychs.
In 2013, Marcel Dzama produced Une danse des bouffons (A Jester's Dance), a 35-minute film that directly references Marcel Duchamp. Employing a surreal aesthetic, the film is a fictional drama depicting the doomed relationship between Duchamp and Brazilan sculptor Maria Martins. Described by Dzama as a 'Dadaist love story', the artwork is bursting with art historical references.
In addition to his contemporary art practice, Marcel Dzama has worked on costume and stage design for New York City Ballet's The Most Incredible Thing (2016), an ambitious performance based on Hans Christian Andersen's 1870 fairy tale. Dzama also produced an installation to accompany the ballet, titled The tension around which history is built, which was displayed at the David H. Koch Theatre, New York City in 2016.
In the late 1990s, Dzama was discovered by New York gallery David Zwirner, which has represented him since.
Marcel Dzama has exhibited extensively in solo and group exhibitions all over the world. His solo exhibitions include Who Loves the Sun, David Zwirner, New York (2021); An End to the End Times, the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art (2021); Tonight We Dance, Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere, Finland (2021); Ya es hora, Galería Helga de Alvear, Madrid (2018); A Jester's Dance, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor (2018); Drawing on a Revolution, La Casa Encendida, Madrid (2017–18); Revolution Blues, Galleri Magnus Karlsson, Stockholm (2017); The Fallen Fables, Crown Point Press, San Francisco (2015–16); Hollow Laughter, Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerland (2014); The End Game, Chess World Hall of Fame, St Louis (2012); Aux mille tours (Of Many Turns), Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Montréal (2010).
Marcel Dzama's group exhibitions include Comics Trip!, Collection Lambert, Avignon (2021); Enjoy and Take Care!, Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp (2020); Libro de Disegni, Galerie Isa, Mumbai (2020–21); We Fight to Build a Free World: An Exhibition by Jonathan Horowitz, The Jewish Museum, New York (2020–21); A Passion for Drawing: The Guerlain Collection From the Centre Pompidou Paris, Albertina Museum, Vienna (2019–20); Endless Enigma: Eight Centuries of Fantastic Art, David Zwirner, New York (2018).
Marcel Dzama's Instagram account can be found here.
Marcel Dzama lives and works in New York.
Phoebe Bradford | Ocula | 2021