Text by Deborah Solomon
Marcel Dzama’s work is characterized by an immediately recognizable visual language that draws from a diverse range of references and artistic influences, including Dada and Marcel Duchamp. While he has become known for his prolific drawings with their distinctive palette of muted colors, in recent years, the artist has expanded his practice to encompass sculpture, painting, film, and dioramas.
Created in close collaboration with the artist, this richly illustrated catalogue presents his 2013 exhibition at David Zwirner in London, which included videos inspired by the game of chess and puppets and masks based on the characters, along with drawings, collages, dioramas, paintings, and sculptural works. Dzama utilized the architecture of the gallery itself—an eighteenth-century Georgian townhouse—by hanging puppets from a skylight above the five-story building’s central spiral staircase and placing monitors in the windows so videos were viewed from the street. As writer Deborah Solomon notes in her accompanying essay, “Naturally, it is a futile endeavor to try and extract anything as compact as a moral or a single storyline from the twisty symbolism of Dzama’s art. But you can say, at the very least, that his latest work is suffused with a sense of nostalgia for the European avant garde in its heyday—it invites you to enter a world filled with costumes and masks and erotic play, with chessboard personalities dancing their heads off, with the sort of brazen gestures in which the Dadaists and the Surrealists specialized. To be sure, the old avant garde is long gone. It isn’t coming back. What Dzama offers us in its place is a fairy tale about a world where art once tried to be pathbreaking and revolutionary, and which lives on today as a story we tell and re-tell about a lost civilization.”