Biography of Marcel Dzama
Marcel Dzama’s work comprises a distinct visual language which draws from a wide source of references and artistic influences, including Dada, Surrealism and Marcel Duchamp. Though known for his fantastical, somewhat whimsical drawings and works on paper, the artist’s practice also combines sculpture, painting, film as well as even costume and set design. Notable examples of his diverse artistic endeavors include his 2016 costume and stage design for the New York City Ballet’s The Most Incredible Thing (based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen) and his costume design for the music video of Bob Dylan’s When the Deal Goes Down.
At first glance many of Marcel Dzama’s works resemble illustrations from children’s books. However, when focusing on his subjects which vary from pirouetting women holding guns, amputated cowboys, dead bears, and anthropomorphic animals, his work is suddenly imbued with an odd eroticism and a starkly macabre air. Marcel Dzama claims this darkness was largely a result of growing up in the remote town of Winnipeg, Canada, a place he describes as ghostly. Born there in 1974, the artist had a difficult childhood; born to a mother of only 17 years of age, struggling with dyslexia and having a rough time with peers and teachers at school. To a young Marcel Dzama, drawing the weird (and sometimes wonderful) things encountered in his surroundings—and also in his dreams and nightmares—represented a crucial form of escape.
Only a year after obtaining his BFA from the University of Manitoba in his hometown, Marcel Dzama held his first solo show in a Los Angeles gallery. Branded as new major talent, the young artist immediately managed to sell works to celebrities such as Jim Carrey and Nicholas Cage. From then until today, the artist has drawn every day and has consistently been surprised by the darkness of his imagination. Though disturbing, his subjects have always lent his art a sense of humour, a quality Marcel Dzama believes invites “an immediate engagement that transcends time”.
Since the late 1990s, Marcel Dzama has been the subject of solo exhibitions across a wide number of notable international institutions; the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal in Montreal, the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Spain, the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague and the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich. His work is also part of the collections of museums such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, The MoMA and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, both in New York and the Tate Modern, London. Today, the artist continues to work from a tiny studio in Brooklyn in which infinite stacks of books, records and cases overflowing with magazine clippings continue to provide him with endless inspiration for his drawings.