MALAGA.- The Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga is presenting Con razón o sin ella/With or Without Reason by the Canadian artist Marcel Dzama. Curated by Fernando Francés, this is the most important exhibition to date on this artist in Spain given that it features fifty of his most recent works. In addition, the CAC Málaga is showing previously unexhibited works and a diorama of more than 300 ceramic figures, which is Dzama’s largest work to date. His well-known drawings, paper dioramas, collages, paintings, sculptures and his latest video complete the display.
“I like it when everything comes together to create something mysterious and mythological”, in the words of Marcel Dzama (born Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 1974). Dzama’s work involves the invention of a fantastical world through figures that people a setting closer to dreams than to reality. Using recognisable elements, his drawings evoke contexts filled with symbols of war and violence, either through the characters’ military uniforms or through choreographies in which the dancers carry weapons. The muted chromatic range against the white of the paper ranges from red to brown, green, khaki, grey and black. Dzama interprets and reinterprets characters from the world of childhood, expressing his fears and nightmares in his work.
For Fernando Francés, Director of the CAC Málaga: “In the imagination of this Canadian artist there is room for albino bats flying over a shooting range while the figures form a perfectly choreographed group in order to shoot at a sky that includes not just bats but also horses, deer and ducks (On the banks of the red river, 2008). We also encounter a drawing that represents a danse macabre with a ballerina setting the beat for the scene and in which the elements in the performance are juxtaposed with characters wearing polka-dot dresses and other waiting to be executed. References to death and violence are certainly to be found in this drawing in which one of the figures has a sword and there are weapons about to be fired (Which Means as Much as Nothin’, 2011)”.
Among the works in the exhibition are the ceramic sculptures that Marcel Dzama produced in Guadalajara (Mexico), a city with which he has close connections and where he has spent lengthy periods working. These previously unexhibited tin and ceramic heads will be shown in Malaga for the first time. With regard to the video A Game of Chess (2011), the characters that appear in it can be seen in other works in this exhibition. In this short film chess ceases to be a mere game and becomes a narrative in which the characters are gradually killed off. As the artist has noted on various occasions, constantly listening to news about war, violence and death has influenced his work.
Another key piece in the present exhibition is the diorama On the banks of the red river (2008), the first work of this type that Dzama produced and one that marked a turning point in his creative output. Made of wood, ceramic sculptures and metal, it includes 300 figures that are ceramic versions of characters already seen in the artist’s drawings and collages.
The influence of Dada is present in Marcel Dzama’s work through dance, with references to Duchamp and to Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet. Among the great artists of the past, Goya is an ongoing reference point to the extent that the present exhibition’s title, Con razón o sin ella/With or Without Reason, derives from that artist’s work and from his conviction that the absence of reason leads mankind to commit acts of violence. Again, the use of Spanish for some of Dzama’s titles and for phrases in his collages is not fortuitous given that he is familiar with Lorca’s poetry and with the work of the Mexican writer Juan Rulfo.
Marcel Dzama is a multi-disciplinary artist. He has illustrated cd covers such as Guero by Beck, Reconstruction Site by The Weakerthans and The Else by They Might be Giants and has also been involved in musical videos such as When the Deal Goes Down by Bob Dylan, No one does it like You by Department of Eagles, which he also co-directed, and The People Tree by N.A.S.A.
Marcel Dzama was a founder member of The Royal Art Lodge together with other local artists including members of his own family. This was a collective project in which the participants met on Wednesday evenings to produce drawings, puppets, dioramas, comics, collages and rag dolls. Its distinctive method involved each artist starting a work than passing it to another for further work until one member decided that it was finished. The Royal Art Lodge gained critical recognition and its creations have been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world.
Currently resident in Brooklyn, New York, Marcel Dzama was born in Canada in 1974 where he completed his university studies. Among his most recent solo exhibitions were those held in 2011 at the Gemeentemuseum in Holland and at the Kunstverein in Brunswick, Germany. In 2010 the Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal, Canada, held the largest exhibition of his work to date. Other important exhibitions have been held at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich (2008), the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, UK (2006), and Le Magasin of the Centre national d’art contemporain in Grenoble, France (2005).
Dzama’s work is also represented in the permanent collections of galleries and museums throughout the world including the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Tate Modern, London, and the Vancouver Art Gallery.