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Marcel Dzama

Tree with Roots

24 May — 16 July 2006

Canadian artist Marcel Dzama is well known for his small-scale, ink and watercolour drawings of human figures, animals and imaginary hybrids. This major exhibition included approximately 50 drawings, sculpture, video, dioramas and scrapbooks.

Dzama’s work refers to a broad range of stylistic sources across high and low culture – from the illustrations of Beatrix Potter to MTV and comic strip characters; from film noir and science fiction to Surrealism. At first glance, his is an innocent world, evoking life before television – certainly before Playstation and Gameboy – and yet on closer inspection it reveals a darker, more sinister side.  In the recent large-scale drawings, mutant figures tend to float in pictorial space, devoid of landmarks, with no evidence to help us locate them, making them more alien and alienated.

The sculptural pieces present a fantastical costume drama where a tree or crocodile-headed figure has morphed into a human. A recent departure for Dzama is the move into video and sculpture. Three-dimensional pieces characters relate to those inhabiting the drawings and appear in the video work that takes the form of animation interspersed with live action. There is a deliberate low quality effect in grainy black and white, recalling scenes from 1930s American comic book heroes and amateur dramatics.

This exhibition was supported by The Canadian High Commission and Canada House Arts Trust.