Piss and Root Beer: An Interview with Marcel Dzama, with contributions from Raymond Pettibon
Depending on your familiarity with—or curiosity about—the current state of visual art, you may or may not be familiar with Raymond Pettibon or Marcel Dzama. Raymond Pettibon is a great artist. Marcel Dzama is a great artist. My name is Nicholas Gazin, and I would like to be a great artist, but for now, I’m totally OK with being a great opportunist.
A few months ago, someone told me that Marcel had a big monograph coming out. It’s called Marcel Dzama: Sower of Discord, out in early November from Abrams, and Raymond wrote the foreword. I selfishly interpreted this information as an excuse to spend time with two of my idols, and so I proposed a three-way interview as a way to subtly interrogate them and, hopefully, learn some of their secrets. Luckily they agreed.
The interview took place at David Zwirner Gallery on West 19th Street in New York, where Raymond was working on some new pieces. There were tables covered in paint, scraps of food and bottles of booze were scattered about, and a couple of dogs were running around, scampering between pieces of very expensive art resting on the gallery floor. I guess I looked hungry, because Raymond kindly gave me an extra hot dog that he’d ordered before I arrived. Marcel showed up shortly after that, and I pressed the record button on my phone. We talked a lot about dog pee, and I’m still unsure if I should apologize about that, but hey, when your heroes want to talk about canine urine, what are you going to do about it?
VICE: Raymond, one thing I like about your work is its lack of preciousness. The last time I interviewed you, a dog urinated on one of your drawings, and you seemed mostly unfazed.
Raymond Pettibon: Well, I wasn’t into my dog doing that, but it’s happened a handful of times. I said on Twitter recently that one of my dogs pissed on my drawings and their value went up twice over.
Marcel Dzama: I had a rabbit that used to spray his urine all over my paintings. I thought he improved them.
My grandfather painted a family portrait for one of my mom’s friends, and there was a problem with what they thought was dripping varnish, but actually one of his cats had sprayed it.
Marcel: When I have drawings lined up, my cat will scratch the sides like a scratching post.
Raymond: When dogs take a leak on a drawing, it’s so acidic that you just have to throw everything out or cut out the urine stain. I don’t want to make it hard for people who do conservation. With some artists, there’s no question of their arrogance. Like the abstract expressionists purposely made it hard on posterity by painting with house paint with no thought as to how it would get preserved down the line. I don’t want the people who buy my work to worry about preserving it.
My mother saved my art that I did when I was three, four, five, six years old. This was done on the back of mimeograph sheets, and they’re in impeccable condition. It’s not hard to get paper that’s entirely acid free… Unless you’re drawing blotter acid, which is an entirely different thing.
How old are you guys?
Marcel: I’m 39.
Raymond: I’m 39. I’ve been 39 many times.
Are you nervous about your 30s ending?
Raymond: I’ll be 39 for a while still.
Marcel: I’m fine with it. I just had a baby last year. I think if I hadn’t had my son I’d be more nervous about aging. I had a lot of friends and relatives who had passed away the year before, and I was so depressed.