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Crossing the Line, and Crossing the World: Marcel Dzama Goes to Hong Kong with David Zwirner

In the what you could call "aftermath" of the US elections of 2016, we sat down with Brooklyn-based, Calgary-born painter Marcel Dzama in his studio in NY and talked about how much art could be effective in the supermodern world. One of my all-time favorite Juxtapoz covers came after this discussion, February 2017, a collaboration between Dzama and Raymond Pettibon, a scene of superheroes in action. Only in this scene, it was the female superhero saving the day, with the backdrop of flames and an all seeing "eye" hovering over the scene. We didn't want to be explicit about the beginning of the Trump era, but I feel like Marcel Dzama set the tone.

Fast-forward to Marcel Dzama's newest solo exhibition, "Crossing the Line," opening at David Zwirner in Hong Kong on Janaury 22, 2019, and the artist is still speaking for the times in poignant and graceful ways. Gone are the days of his minimal works at part of the Royal Art Lodge; today sees dense, complicated, highly detailed works that touch on contemporary issues but almost appear out of a fairy-tale. "I have always enjoyed trickster characters throughout history and mythology, as a way to escape the hold of the logical," Dzama says. "I do from time to time candy-coat what I’m projecting in my work. Like my anger and anxieties around our times. In some of the work, I try to explain it, but in other works I pass over it in silence. I like the viewer to decide what’s happening."

As Zwirner notes, "Spanning the two floors of the gallery, the works on view explore imagery inspired by the artist’s recent trip to Hong Kong, while also reinvigorating a range of fantastical motifs that Dzama has investigated throughout his oeuvre. Here, the artist combines elements from the theater and carnival with those of warfare and conflict to create a singular vision, both playful and dark. He develops a world that mirrors our own where life and death, calm and violence can coexist and where allusions to artistic movements including Dada and Surrealism are depicted alongside commentary on present social and political issues."

Dzama says of his body of work, "Sometimes I will start with just a blank page and do an automatic drawing. Other times I’ll have an image in mind or in front of me, and I’ll use it as a reference in my composition. I think I’m influenced by making films. I subconsciously think about the rule of thirds, the page divided into nine equal segments by two vertical and two horizontal lines, with the most important elements at the points where the lines intersect. But I purposely break those rules from time to time. The medium I start with is graphite, and then with the smaller drawings I’ll use watercolor paint, and the larger drawings are acrylic paint. Every now and then, though, I’ll keep them just in graphite."

"Crossing the Line" will be on view at David Zwirner in Hong Kong from January 22 to March 9, 2019

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