Sunday, March 23, 2008

Marcel Dzama at David Zwirner

Marcel Dzama's oeuvre is rife with disturbing childhood imaginations, executed in various mediums, each a successful means of connecting eerie psychosis with political imbalance. Scenes of the greedy and gruesome are displayed with the same dizziness and nonsensical story lines of twilight zone episodes, with decapitated heads, masked hunters, sexually questionable Pinocchios, burlesque theatrics, and the ubiquitous black bear. This cacophony of hauntingly nightmarish yet irresistibly cute figures come alive in this exhibition at David Zwirner.
In the first room, a series of drawings unite in color palette, where artist uses muted colors of red, beige, brown and gray, each drawing a constellation of figures mesmerizing the plane with repetitive patterns. In Poor Sacrifices of our enmity, a swarm of female figures utilizes the bow and arrow to point and shoot a goat atop a ladder, but none are placed on a sensical ground plane, filling the space from top to bottom swirling and rotating creating a layer of abstract patterns with the concentric circle of their bow. The blank background allows for this play on space and narrative, a violent scene marked by discombobulating placement of a singular figure. The minimal use of elements in these drawings send a strong message of the inhumane and inexplicable in each of us.
Pages from Dzama's sketchbooks reveal his interests in the magical fused with political manipulations and grievances of the individual. These dark themes are revealed thru quirky observations, each page of graph paper a collage of the artist's exploration of current events and random useless information. Page 5 of 13 in the sketchbook included in the exhibition includes a personal story in conjunction with a elementary science project study of the gopher, a naive childish caption beneath a violent scene with cartoon figures appropriated on top. And above the study for one of few puppet theater diamoras The Underground. The sketchbook is a precise portrayal of the artist's work in progress, his interests in the fantastical and the random, taking the mundane and newsworthy into a realm of imaginary characters and daydreams.
The second room is closed and dark, with a few dioramas in the likes of stages of stuffed animals seen in the museum of natural history, except these are scenes of greed, violence, and all that is deviously innocent. On the Banks of the Red River depicts men in gray suits from the olden days, scattered and numerous, pointing their rifles in the air as animals fall or in the midst of falling to their death. The scene is thrown into the fantastical with the inclusion of large decapitated heads and flowers billowing thru the empty space. The diorama creates contradictory reactions for the viewer, as we sympathize with the poor dead animals, feel animosity for the hunters, and are left with confusion as to why these zombie heads decorate the scene amidst beautiful blooming petals.
And the strongest and strangest work in the show is a 20 minute film shot in scratchy black and white, which is accompanied on select days by a pianist who plays in accord with the film, a beautiful trance of tunes accentuating each flighty scene. The protagonist of the film is an artist haunted by his own creations, costumed furry characters often masked who prance around the artist as both threat and revelry. There is a theme of keyholes thorughout the film, which is reiterated in an installation that reflects Duchamp"s Etant donnes, viewable through a peephole. Rather than the main image being a naked female, we are haunted by 2 figures, both male and female with a fox atop a hill, a successful predator preying on their fare skin and innocence.
A great show that merges the imagination with the all too real of our mundane and often ridiculously violent reality.

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