Critics’ Picks

Marcel Dzama, The pool near the ocean, 2020, watercolor, ink, and graphite on paper, 12 x 9".

Marcel Dzama, The pool near the ocean, 2020, watercolor, ink, and graphite on paper, 12 x 9".

New York

Marcel Dzama

David Zwirner
Online exhibition
April 23–May 28, 2020

Beneath a pair of sienna-hued palm trees, four hooded women in polka-dotted capes stand by the edge of a pool in which a lone child sits, fully clothed. With upturned hands, he creates a swirl of gentle ripples across the water’s surface. This watercolor drawing by Marcel Dzama, titled The pool near the ocean, 2020, is among several serene bayside dramas produced for an online presentation at David Zwirner. Each whimsical scene—inspired by the artist’s recent sojourns with his young son to Morocco and Mexico—is peopled with a host of carnivalesque characters, whose choreographed antics often fail to disrupt the tranquility of the boy’s isolated play.

Given the troubling times we find ourselves in, a “viewing room” that invokes the wonder of travel could potentially miss the mark. Yet scrolling through these imaginative scenarios—albeit backlit on my laptop screen—proves a delightful respite. The exhibition includes stunning photographs of Dzama’s studio and a video introduction performed by his son (in a suit and an N95 respirator), interspersed with footage of the two aforementioned locales, shot by the artist. The vibrant drawings remind us of what’s “out there” and lure us through the realms of dreams, imagination, and memory—no passport or mask needed. Dzama’s world is marked by surreal shifts in scale, visual rhymes, and communion with animals—like the brown cat who sits beside an elderly oud player, or the oversize butterflies who hover above a leisurely game of chess.

“Pink Moon” is titled for a recent, shared experience that belies the strangeness of real life at present: April’s rose-hued supermoon, a celestial harbinger of new beginnings, viewed simultaneously from rooftops and balconies across the world. In the show’s titular drawing, the heavenly object dons a sinister grin and emerges through a cosmic haze, flanked by attendants with white cloths draped across their faces.