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Untitled, 1997, pen & ink and coloured wash on paper, 31.8 x 24.9 cm. Gift of Wayne Baerwaldt, Calgary, 2005.

Marcel Dzama: Early Drawings

Untitled, 1997, pen & ink and coloured wash on paper, 31.8 x 24.9 cm. Gift of Wayne Baerwaldt, Calgary, 2005.
A series of drawings from the formative stage of Marcel Dzama's career, demonstrating the development of his distinctive visual idiom.
Untitled, 1997, pen & ink and coloured wash on paper, 31.8 x 24.9 cm. Gift of Wayne Baerwaldt, Calgary, 2005.

Over the past decade, Marcel Dzama’s imagery has achieved widespread circulation and recognition. Appearing on album covers, book illustrations, posters, and through the artist’s success in the art world in mediums ranging from video to sculpture, Dzama’s strange and compelling images have become ubiquitous. Raymond Pettibon, Spike Jonze, and Dave Eggers have all cited him as an influence, and a generation of artists has adopted elements of Dzama’s aesthetic.

These early works provide a glimpse into the uncanny imaginary world that has struck a chord and gained a wide audience. They are humble in scale, handmade and crude, and yet they illustrate and refer to grandiose fantasies. Employing figures from an apparently private world, executed at an intimate scale, and placed in bizarre, sometimes violent psychosexual situations, there is nonetheless something recognizable in the characters and scenarios that populate Dzama’s imagery. They seem to be stock figures from a popular unconscious with roots in cinema and popular culture. Even in his earliest small-scale drawings, which Dzama distributed to as many recipients as possible in order to establish his career, we are confronted with both the familiar and strange, a world we already know and have been waiting for, a world of uncertain origin that seems to embody our dreams.

-Pan Wendt, curator

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