‘The Work Is Alive’: Watch Artists Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon Collaborate on Whimsical Large-Scale Drawings

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21
Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "Marcel Dzama: Drawing with Raymond Pettibon." © Art21, Inc. 2019.

Artists are often thought of as solitary workers. But some, like the Canadian-born artist Marcel Dzama, are drawn to collaboration.

I enjoy working alone for about a month, and then after that I really need to be around other artists,” he said in an exclusive 2019 interview with Art21 for the “Extended Play” series (not knowing that just a few months later he would be forced into isolation along with everyone else).

In the video, Dzama describes how he met fellow artist Raymond Pettibon at a dinner thrown by gallerist David Zwirner, who represents both of them. “We’re both a little socially awkward,” Dzama says. “So we’d be drawing at the dinners… on napkins over the table.”

Soon after meeting, the two began making collaborative drawings in which they started working on opposite ends of a large sheet of paper, meeting in the middle and overlapping.

While Dzama is known for his whimsical, detailed sketches of hybrid creatures, which draw heavily from fairytales and other myths, Pettibon’s work is more graphic, often using images of waves and other hallmarks of California culture.

“I’ve definitely found that I have this looseness to my work,” Dzama says of his collaboration with Pettibon. “That gives it more of an energy. The work is alive and I’ve really embraced it.”

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s PBS series Art in the Twenty-First Century, below.

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch episodes of other series like “New York Close Up” and “Extended Play” and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.


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