Photos courtesy of Erin Baiano and Paul Kolnik 
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Marcel Dzama’s Glory

BY Christiane Nickel | Mon. February 8, 2016 | 6:00 PM | Culture
Digitally driven, image laden, and over branded, 21st century contemporary culture has resulted in a yearning for a simpler more streamlined lifestyle. The conspicuous consumption of (practically) any form of minimalist design—whether in fashion, architecture, music, or art—has become an all too powerful coping mechanism. So why not embrace the chaos and make it your muse? This seems to be the tactic artist Marcel Dzama has taken with his career as well as the costume and set design of New York City Ballet’s The Most Incredible Thing.

Upon moving to New York City in 2004, Dzama began to create densely populated images arranged in various dance positions as a means of bringing order to his life in the claustrophobic city. As a result, dance became a source of inspiration and fascination. In fact, his published works The Berliner Ensemble Thanks You All and The Course of Human History Personified are two notable examples of his ornately conceptualized cast of characters.

Fast forward to 2016, Dzama has joined with choreographer Justin Peck and composer Bryce Dessner to envision the New York City Ballet’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Most Incredible Thing. The (predictably dark) fairy tale tells the story of a magical clock, where every hour a new life-like mythic figure performs a dance. There’s a king, a princess, a love interest, and an evil dude trying to wreck it all (and, well, you know the rest). Dzama’s prismatic cast of characters and set designs were culled from movements, artists, and literary works including Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, and Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes.

So what did Marcel Dzama’s colorful cast of characters amount to?

A colorful frenzy that was equal parts ornate and orderly. The performance opened with conjoined medieval kings gleaming with silver plating that evoked violent swerves and dips Futurist architecture. To lighten the mood, enter the ‘summer grasshopper,’ outlined in jaunty strokes of red, blue, green, yellow and black. For something a little flighty, don’t forget the crow, cast in gunmetal metallic feathers while searingly red swirls and squiggles outlining a set of lithe rams complimented a set of stacked saucers (representing the five senses), much like the grace and simplicity of a ‘50s UFO.

This past Saturday’s after-party following the performance delved deeper into Dzama’s masterful creations by featuring his video installation with Amy Sedaris and a triplet of dancing polka dots, and a carousel of the artist’s famous chess pieces constructed out of canned goods. This was all aurally outlined by the hypnotic beats of LCD Soundsystem’s Pat Mahoney.

All in all, Marcel Dzama’s kaleidoscopic vignette professes the beauty in chaos and in ornament. See it for yourself.


The Most Incredible Thing runs on February 11 and February 19. 

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