A Few of my Favorite Artists (part one) MARCEL DZAMA (and others)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Marcel Dzama

A few years back McSweeneys, one of my favorite indie publishers, started using these strange little pen and ink (and what looked like brown watercolor) drawings as random spot illustrations in their quarterly, books, and their magazine the Believer.  They were so strange, but loveable...naive but smart, you couldn't help but love them.  I later found out that the artist was Marcel Dzama and the rich browns were from using root beer extract.  In addition to having a few collected books, he has also shown at David Zwirner in New York and the Tate.

The two artists that come to mind when I see Dzama's work are Edward Gorey and Henry Darger.  I won't give a history lesson on both artists, but if you're not familiar with their work, here are a few images (some you might recognize!):


Here's a great little comic about Gorey by another favorite illustrator Tom Gauld.


I will make a quick note about Darger, because I read a lot about him a few years ago while working on a short bio comic.  Darger was NOT a successful illustrator/artist.  In fact, he died poor and was (according to those who knew him) what we in the business call "totally insane".  Darger lived alone and worked through the night on his epic book "The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion."  See, I told you.  He was bonkers.  Actually, the people who lived in his apartment building thought he had people over all the time, but later found out that he was just talking to himself in made up voices!  

I saw his work a few years back at Baltimore's American Visionary Art Museum and it was breathtaking.  His work is all drawn on yellowed legal paper in pencil and watercolor, and most of the main characters are traced from old coloring books.  After he died they found the book (which was up to 15,145 pages!!) in stacks.  Often he would just draw on found paper or even the backs of other drawings.

Don't worry, I like normal stuff too.  I'll get to that later.


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Rick Lovell said...

I had the good fortune of learning of Darger from Larry Anderson, and saw his show at the American Museum of Folk Art (next to MOMA in NY)a few years ago. Very odd imagery that is a bit reminiscent of Dick and Jane but with bizarre sexual and gender references. Fascinating work by a very odd man.