The Course of Human History Personified
Opening on September 8, 2005, David Zwirner is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Marcel Dzama. Born in 1974 in Winnipeg, Canada, Dzama has had numerous solo and group exhibitions in the United States, Canada and abroad. He was also a member of the Winnipeg-based artists' collective The Royal Art Lodge. This will be the artist's fourth solo exhibition at the gallery, and will include single drawings, composite drawings, costumes, notebook pages, and sculptures.
Known for his figurative compositions of pen and watercolor on manila-colored paper with a characteristic palette of muted browns, grays, greens, yellows, and reds, Dzama's drawings are populated by human characters, animals, hybrids—sometimes combined with text—that are placed against empty backgrounds. Caught in unlikely situations, his characters and their environments are stripped of specific narrative contexts, thus offering many possible interpretations. The artist's cast of characters is expansive and characters often reappear, though in each drawing their roles become more complex and defined. The work draws from a variety of sources, among them native mythology, Inuit art, Dante's Divine Comedy, medieval paintings, and American folklore. Dzama is influenced by the work of William Blake, Francisco de Goya, Sandro Botticelli, and James Ensor, among others.
Published on the occasion of his fourth solo exhibition at David Zwirner in 2005, this beautifully designed and produced catalogue—with essays by curator and art historian Jason Rosenfeld and writer Jason Tougaw—features Marcel Dzama’s most recent drawings, costumes, sculptures, and notebook pages. The title, The Course of Human History Personified, is borrowed from the poet Dante and recalls both grandiose artistic and literary cycles from the nineteenth century such as the New York Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole’s five-painting The Course of Empire of 1836, where nature plays as large a role as humans. In Dzama’s art, personification has always been the main leitmotif—imagined characters and trees and beasts assume base human characteristics. The catalogue also includes a unique fold out designed by the artist.