An End to the End Times offers a unique opportunity to encounter the span of this prolific artist’s career and ever-expanding lexicon. Presenting works from the past 20 years, the exhibition opens with a selection of small ink and watercolor paintings inspired in part by allegorical tales including Dante’s Divine Comedy (1308–20). These early works on paper fuse the historical imagery of artists like Hieronymus Bosch (1450–1516) and William Blake (1757–1827) with pop culture references from Dzama’s youth. Featuring isolated characters on sparse backgrounds, they exemplify Dzama’s signature style that established him as a major figure in the contemporary art world and serve as precursors to increasingly complex compositions featuring multitudes of human and hybrid figures.
The exhibition is anchored by On the banks of the Red River, a massive diorama that contrasts the intimacy of Dzama’s early paintings and was conceived, along with other sculptural works, in Guadalajara, Mexico, during a 2006 residency at Ceramica Suro, where the scale and ambition of the artist’s work expanded significantly. Based on Dzama’s 2005 painting You gotta make room for the new ones, the diorama — which features a battalion of huntsmen firing their rifles into a sky populated by hordes of bats, birds, and severed floating heads — is a striking presentation of the artist’s whimsical albeit dark aesthetic.
Dzama’s most recent work is represented by prints and small paintings from 2020, as well as a grand-scale triptych created specifically for the exhibition. Though not an explicit narrative, the scene typifies the energetic ensembles and environs of Dzama’s large-scale works. While the artist has explored sinister subjects throughout his career, his recent small paintings fixate on the respite of travel and indulgence of nostalgia, contrasting the frustration of current travel restrictions imposed around the world with lush images, inspired by visits to Morocco and Mexico, that give viewers a sense of hope for leisure in a post-pandemic world.