At first glance, Marcel Dzama's delicate works strike one as being almost innocent, yet a grotesque and occasionally gruesome universe opens up behind this façade
Marcel Dzama’s 2011 films A Game of Chess and Death Disco Dance revealed fascinating new developments in the artist’s iconography and range of media--perhaps most notably in his use of puppets and dioramas, which added more playful qualities to his imagery of conflict and terror, and underscored his dialogue with modernist artists such as Duchamp, Man Ray and Oskar Schlemmer. This volume, published for Dzama’s exhibitions at Sies + Höke and Kunstverein Braunschweig, reproduces a wealth of new work, including images, stage sets, puppets, dioramas and sculptures from the films; a suite of ten drawings called Forgotten Terrorists (2008–2011), that draw on a photograph of the Palestinian terrorist and hijacker Leila Khaled; and other recent drawings, such as “Pepper Spray Saturday” (2011), an interpretation of the already iconic image of policeman John Pike pepper spraying Occupy protesters at University of California Davis.
The protagonists in Dzama's charmingly but horrifically choreographed pictorial world, which appears to be devoted to the abysmal depths of humanity, are wearing masks, uniforms, bearing arms, dancing, making love, or in agony. Dzama’s uncanny dream world of the unconscious seldom develops a stringent narrative but creates a metaphorical landscape that invokes a whole range of associations and interpretations. In doing so, they absorb a wide spectrum of influences from older and more recent art history: Francisco de Goya, Dada, in particular Marcel Duchamp as well as Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet. The pictorial aesthetics of the 1920s is typical of Dzama’s oeuvre, diversely augmented by references to literature, psychology, cinematic history, and current political issues.