Marcel Dzama was born in 1974 in Winnipeg, Canada. Fantastical and absurd, Dzama’s drawings feature a cast of humans, animals, and hybrid creatures rendered in pencil, ink, watercolor, and, at times, root-beer syrup. Dzama draws upon a mix of influences—from childhood monsters, like the Wolfman and Dracula, to the work of artists like Marcel Duchamp, Francisco Goya, William Blake, and Francis Picabia—to create unique worlds that are at once surreal and familiar, sweet and violent, and chaotic and elegant.
Dzama’s early drawings were populated by three or four figures, isolated against white backgrounds inspired by the dissolution of the horizon into the landscape during Winnipeg’s snowy winters. With Dzama’s move to New York in 2004, his white backgrounds became more densely populated with figures: swarms of bats, moths, or owls; masked dancers poised in arabesque while holding rifles; processions of human and animal characters, clad in polka-dot bodysuits or entirely nude. Thinking of the drawings as still images of stage productions, Dzama began to use dance choreography to organize this chaos of figures into stylized formations. His works have also taken on a role of socio-political commentary, responding to his daily media diet and politics in the United States. Dzama was a co-founder of The Royal Art Lodge, a Winnipeg collective of artists who created collaborative drawings, and he continues to collaborate with a range of artistic partners—including the New York City Ballet, the artist Raymond Pettibon, and the actress Amy Sedaris—on drawings, performances, and films.
Marcel Dzama received his BFA in 1997 from the University of Manitoba. Dzama’s awards include The Hnatyshyn Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement as an Artist, Ottawa (2013); the ARCO Award, Madrid (2012); and the New Artist Award, Art Cologne (2000). Dzama has had major exhibitions at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, Michigan (2018); Galleri Magnus Karlsson, Stockholm (2017); Crown Point Press, San Francisco (2015); Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerland (2014); Galería Helga de Alvear, Madrid (2013); Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Spain (2012); Museo de Arte de Zapopan, Zapopan, Mexico (2012); Gemeentemuseum, The Hague (2011); Kunstverein Braunschweig, Germany (2011); Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2010); Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2008); Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, England (2006); and Le Magasin – Centre National d’Art Contemporain de Grenoble, France (2005); among others. Marcel Dzama lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
In a new film from our “Extended Play” digital series, Marcel Dzama discusses the evolution of his drawings, from his time growing up in his native Winnipeg, to his move to New York in 2004, to his more recent responses to U.S. politics and media.
Introducing a series of three new films to close out the year, featuring Kara Walker, Jason Moran, Marcel Dzama, and Alex Da Corte.