In his sixth solo show at Sies + Höke, and following his recent exhibition at Kunstverein Braunschweig, New York-based Canadian Marcel Dzama (b. 1974) shows new sculptures, dioramas, video installations, paintings and works on paper.
Dzamas international reputation is no longer confined to his drawings of violent phantastic creatures. With his latest film A Game of Chess (2011), he artistically advanced into cinema format, and also in the realm of sculpture he has consistently been breaking new ground over the last few years. Repeatedly, his strictly choreographed imagery is devoted to the human abyss: the horrors of violence, terror, war and death are equally present in his work as is the existential fear of loss of personal autonomy. Anonymous standardized figures such as dancers, chess pieces or soldiers often encounter contrasting individuals, sexualized or mutilated, alien and appaling. In the video Death Disco Dance (2011), which is presented in this exhibition simultaneously on 28 stacked monitors in the front window of the gallery, dancing puppets are shown in dotted full body suits as they compulsively repeat, like Sisyphus, time and again the same routine: subordinate, unified and silenced. In A Game of Chess the aesthetics of symmetrically dancing figurines symbolize the lure of conformity and the abandonment of individuality and self-government – at the same time, the chess game can be read as a motive for an abstracted form of warfare.
Dzama reproduces his motifs repeatedly in various media; the same dancers, puppets and masks, which he brings to life in his films, also feature in his drawings, collages and diorama display cases. Dzama continues the principle of sequencing and duplication, as is evident in Death Disco Dance, also on canvas. Forgotten Terrorists (2008-2011) is a group of 10 small paintings, most of which relate to the same template: an early photograph of the Palestinian terrorist and highjacker Leila Khaled, sitting on a bed with the rifle beside her.
On a formal level Dzama absorbs a variety of influences from art history, from the pre-war avant-garde until today: particularly recognizable are Dada, Man Ray, Duchamp, and Oskar Schlemmer - by the latter in particular his Triadic Bauhaus ballet, whose original costumes Dzama saw at the Reina Sofia in Madrid. Additionally, his apocalyptic collages and drawings feature references to literature, expressionistic film history, pop culture and current events – the drawing Pepper Spray Saturday (2011) for example refers to the now iconographic photo of the policeman John Pike, using pepper spray against defenseless Occupy protesters at University of California.
Marcel Dzama was born in 1974 in Winnipeg, Canada, and lives in New York. His solo exhibitions include: The never known into the forgotten, Kunstverein Braunschweig (2011); A Game of Chess, Gemeentemuseum The Hague (2011); Aux mille tours, Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montréal (2010); Marcel Dzama, Pinakothek der Moderne Munich (2008). Marcel Dzama was nominated for the 2012 Prix du dessin of the Fondation Guerlain, Paris. His works are in the collections of numerous international museums, such as: MoMA (New York), Guggenheim Museum (New York), Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington), Musée d'art contemporain du Montréal (Montréal) and Tate Modern (London).
Together with Kunstverein Braunschweig, Sies + Höke will publish a new monograph on the artist in spring 2012. On 30 March 2012 Dzama will open another solo exhibition at the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo (CAC) Malaga, which will also be accompanied by a catalog.