Who loves the sun, an exhibition of films and drawings by contemporary artist and costume designer Marcel Dzama is currently on display on David Zwirner’s Upper East Side. This is the first solo exhibition by an artist in New York since 2014; the works on display were all created in the past year during the pandemic lockdown. Most of these drawings were inspired by pre-pandemic photographs that Dzama took on his many travels; subjects include dancers, elaborate costumes, wild animals, mythical creatures, and multiple personifications of the sun and moon.
The centerpiece of the exhibition, which bears the same name as the title of the exhibition, is flamboyant and bursting with color. It represents dancers playing in a ballet. The sun, with human features, is at the center, its fiery rays emitting a light that covers the entire scene. The curtains, on either side of the composition, are covered with motifs of plants and animals – birds, goats and tigers surrounded by white. On stage, ten female performers with 1920s-style haircuts and eye masks wearing short dresses with spiral and geometric patterns, two half-human, half-animal figures wearing long dresses with square patterns, striped and polka dot, two bats, a tiger, another half-human half-animal in the body of a young girl, and performer in the center of the scene balancing a peacock on one arm and an owl on the other.
WHAT: Marcel Dzama, who loves the sun
WHEN: September 8 to October 23, 2021
O: David Zvirner, 34 East 69th St., New York
A similar work, entitled “No less that everything comes together ”, is a design for a large-scale Dzama mosaic piece created for the popular MTA Arts & Design program. As “Who loves the sun», This piece also depicts a stage performance. In it, 13 performers from different ethnic backgrounds, all dressed in blue and white polka-dot dresses and leotards, some are jumping in the air and some are sitting Indian-style on the floor, raising their arms, revealing the flame of candles. The backdrop for the scene features the sun and the moon, with both facial features shown cheek to cheek.
Other whimsical and light works include “A Midsummer Night’s Sonnet ” inspired by Shakespeare’s play, and “Our father was a beast, my mother a beauty and grandpa was a vampire. “”Sonnet” features three very different characters roaming a rainforest at night. They include a woman dressed with a 1920s haircut. Wearing a blue and white striped suit, she wears a mask around her eyes; smoke comes from a cigarette in his hand. The central character is half animal, half human. It represents a donkey’s head on the body of a woman dressed in an electric blue bathrobe with large yellow dots. She appears to be performing a song as she proudly gazes into space, her mouth open with one hand over her heart and her other arm extended, pointing to the sky as a mysterious insect flies above. Glancing behind her, a young man with a mischievous and evil expression. His hair, lips and eyebrows are a blazing red, as is his shirt.
“Our father was a beast” depicts two young girls sitting on the back of a lion at night on the beach with tropical plants on either side. An older woman can be seen staring at the girls in awe while gently holding the lion’s tail.
While many of Dzama’s works are lively and upbeat, some reveal a darker side. A series entitled “I’m glad mom fought, I just wish she would win ” and “Mom will get up again, but if we let her fall, we will go down with her ”, shows Mother Nature in the form of a female body surrounded by sea creatures. “I’m glad mom fought “ is a painting of a sinking oil tanker and Mother Nature struggling to stay alive underwater, while “Mom will get up again “ represents Mother Nature lying dead at the bottom of the ocean.
Some of the films in the exhibition include the imagination Lost Chat Disco, a film that Dzama made with his son Williem where a young boy repeatedly sings about how he lost his cat while wearing various masks and headgear designed by Dzama.
The other films are Dance Floor Dracula, Prelude in C sharp minor –a nearly six-minute film starring Amy Sedaris and Raymond Pettibon; and Who loves the sun this features the song of the same name from the Velvet Underground playing in the background with images of nature, wildlife, artwork by Dzama and several characters wearing his masks and costumes.