The multidisciplinary Canadian artist Marcel Dzama (born in Winnipeg in 1974) has been living and working in New York since 2004. Of Many Turns is the largest solo exhibition of his works ever organized by a museum. By taking a closer look at his recent production, this exhibition seeks to highlight some of the artist’s themes—such as nostalgia, early modernism, the relationship between irony and cynicism, politics and subjectivity—to arrive at a different understanding of his work.
Dzama’s dioramas, videos, sculptures, paintings, collages and drawings of carnivalesque scenes of choreographed violent and erotic behaviour draw upon a rich back-catalogue of artistic and literary references that range from prewar children’s book illustration to Marcel Duchamp, James Joyce and Dante.
If the works seem vague, rather than specific to a set group of references, it is because they are driven by open-ended narratives laden with ambivalent scenes of torture, dancing and erotic escapades. Dzama transforms seemingly arbitrary imagery, steeped in nostalgia, into a sort of mythology that is aesthetically attractive (the works are beautiful) while precluding most straightforward readings. He mixes and cooks up ingredients into something well beyond the sum of its parts: an imaginary world suspended between present and past, personal and mythical, site and non-site.