Even the Ghost of the Past

Back in New York for a few days and walking around Chelsea with a long list of shows to visit (as usual ArCal has helped me select them.)

On Friday i fell in love with the work of Marcel Dzama at the Gallery David Zwirner.

0aafirtborn.jpgFist Born 2007

Even the Ghost of the Past, Dzama’s fifth solo exhibition at the gallery, includes drawings, collages, costumes, installations, dioramas, and a film. They evoke fairy tales but with an added streak of terrorism, jazz-era nostalgia, sexual perversion and cruelty.

0aarealda44.jpgLa Verdad está Muerta Room Full of Liars, 2007

Inspired by the religious shrines he found in Mexico and the work of Joseph Cornell, the Canadian artist has created a series of five dioramas. Recessed into the wall, they recall a child’s puppet theatre or the didactic displays found in natural history museums.

0akilllkilll.jpgOn the Banks of the Red River, 2008

Nearly 300 ceramic sculptures were used to compose the biggest diorama in the show. On the banks of the red river recreates the apocalyptic cover image of his 2005 exhibition catalogue, The Course of Human History Personified. Dozens of haughty aristocratic hunters, guns in hand, are massacring forest animals. The lovely fawn lays with its tongue out, the bird had its head severed from the body, the fate of the little dead frog leaves the hunters indifferent, bats and flowers are flying, etc. Great care has been taken to make the corpse as cute as possible. The cuteness of the animal kingdom turn into perversion with the Infidels diorama where adorable little bats flap their wings above a dead bear.

0apipistrell.jpgInfidels, 2008

Dzama also created an installation that pays homage to and almost demystifies Marcel Duchamp’s Étant donnés, 1946-66. Like Duchamp, Dzama has created an intricate tableau only visible to viewers through a peephole. The artist imagines what could have provoked Duchamp’s scene of a nude splayed in the woods. Dzama’s interpretation proposes a wily fox is to blame, knocking-out both the nude and her lover with a slingshot.

0aapeeopol.jpgEven the Ghost of the Past, 2008

In a room at the back of the gallery, the silent film The Lotus Eaters recalls a time when black-and-white mute movies were accompanied by live pianists. The title suggests Homer’s mythical race whose favored food induced a dreamy and contented forgetfulness.

0aoursonshow.jpgLotus Eaters, 2005

Using a combination of 8mm and 16mm film, Dzama also incorporates footage shot by a Fisher-Price PixelVision camcorder – his childhood camera. Embodying the unique combination of homespun aesthetic and referential complexity that characterizes Dzama’s production, the film makes vivid not only the characters who occupy the artist’s imagination, but also the essential nature of the creative process.

0aamarcelcollag.jpgUntitled (Page 8 of 13), 2007

In Dzama’s drawings and collages, distinct characters take center stage against a blank background, most notably the masked and armed “terrorist.” The character is repeated amongst cowboys, archers, and femmes fatales. What the artist really meant to evoke is up to everyone’s imagination. It’s hard not to think of the climate of paranoia at the forefront of American politics.

0aweepoursadbosomsempty.jpgWeep our sad bosoms empty, 2007

More images. And i took some photos.

On view at David Zwirner gallery, through April 19, 2008.