Artists Raymond Pettibon and Marcel Dzama Made a Zine Together

VICE's art editor Nicholas Gazin asked the artists what it was like collaborating with each other.

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Feb 2 2016, 5:00am

Photos by Nick Gazin

Raymond Pettibon and Marcel Dzama made a zine of their collaborative drawings. They also put on an art show to help promote this zine, and it's up at David Zwirner's Chelsea gallery until February 12. The show and zine are called Forgetting the Hand. I assume that the title is about trying to transmit the images from your mind to the paper without thinking about the drawing appendage.

To commemorate the zine's release and make money selling art, David Zwirner put up a show of the drawings Marcel and Rayms have made together. You could buy one of the 500 zines printed for $30 or buy the original pieces for much, much more. The little sticker on the back of the cellophane envelope lets me know that I have zine number 70 of 500.

Both Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon are quiet men who tend to trail off when they speak. When I saw Marcel, I asked if he would sign my zine, but he declined. He didn't want to be stuck signing things for the rest of the opening. Marcel pointed out that he'd done a drawing based on one of my photos, and let me ask him a few questions though. Here's a little Q&A that I did with Marcel Dzama while people lingered nearby, eager to say hi to him.

VICE: How did you and Raymond start making these drawings together?
Marcel Dzama: We had dinner together and we were drawing on the napkins and the gallery approached us about doing a zine. Lucas who's the head of the book department suggested it.

Have you collaborated with many artists?
A few. Maurice Sendak, before he passed away.


That makes sense.
And Spike Jonze. Me and him draw all the time.

Spike Jonze draws?
Yeah, he draws in a Gonzales kind of look. You should ask him about it.

Are there favorite pieces of yours in here?
My favorite piece is my son's favorite piece, the one with Superman in it and there's a drawing of Ray and me in it based on a photo you took of us.

The drawing based on my photograph

I'm so honored.
Thanks for taking it.

How old is your son?
Three and a half. I find myself drawing to entertain him a lot of times. There's one where he's in a sailor suit. I drew him in that one, and he was really excited. I encourage the superhero theme because he's really into those right now. He loves Superman because he's indestructible.

How long did it take to make the murals?
The murals didn't take very long. The smaller ones took longer. The freedom of the large pieces is an aspect and with this large pattern we used a projector. It took an hour while the small piece next to it took all day.

With this large mural of waves, who did what parts?
I did the Duchamp-style black lines and Ray turned it into waves. I drew the little surfer girl, and he drew the waves.

Raymond's concentric line wave patterns are so beautiful. Those are some of my favorite things he does.
In some of the drawings, we mimicked each other's style. Trying to draw in his style was fun.

How long have you been working on the pieces in the show?
Not too long. We originally did them for the zine. The larger ones we did in the last month. Some were just finished yesterday. All the larger ones we finished in one late night.

Do you wish you were able to keep any of the murals?
Definitely, especially the one of the bat.

[At this point someone came over and asked Marcel some questions.]

Do you enjoy the social aspect of art events?
No, not at all. It's like a wedding. It's hard to focus. It's like a whirlwind. I like to see friends but it's hard to take it all in.

People like to fantasize that being an artist is a glamorous job, but a lot of it is spending time alone.
That's what made working on this show so nice. It was nice being with another artist who you could bounce ideas off of and have fun conversations with.

Are there any drawings here where you felt like Raymond was fucking up a nice thing you'd drawn?
No, never. He only improved my drawings. If anything I was scared that I was messing up, but he was very supportive. This is a dream project that came together perfectly.

Is it strange to be friends with Raymond Pettibon?
Yeah, he was a legend to me before I met him. He was actually the first contemporary artist who I knew about because of the album covers he did. He also opened the door for drawings in contemporary art. Before Raymond, drawings weren't really accepted.

Who are you looking at lately?
I'm obsessed with Francis Picabia, mainly his late paintings, where he drew from old nudie magazines. He drew them in a style that was almost like he'd just learned how to paint. It's realistic, but off.

As a child, I would see Raymond's drawings where anatomy or line weight wasn't stylistically consistent and feel that it was similarly off. But as I got better at drawing those things that seemed wrong were actually Raymond being great.
I felt the same way with cartoons where characters would change sizes and get swallowed by another character.

Are you referring to the Ren and Stimpy episode "The Boy Who Cried Rat," where Stimpy chews up Ren?
Yes, exactly, when he's chewing him. Or in Transformers, when Soundwave would change size.

Then I thanked Marcel for chatting with me and let him chat with other people. I wandered around a little and saw an enthusiastic flock of fans cornering Raymond Pettibon with skateboards they wanted him to sign. Unlike Marcel, Raymond was unable to say no to autograph hounds. Consequently he was trapped in a corner at his own show. Once it was clear that everybody else was bothering Ray for autographs, I got one too. I also asked him about the drawings.

VICE: How was it drawing with Marcel Dzama?
Raymond Pettibon: It was charmed, a really good fit. Collaborations aren't always easy. You never know how it'll turn out. There were no seams, in a sense. We came from two different points, but met in the center.

You're both very generous people personally and I can see how neither of you domineer. You allow each other to lead the drawings.
Sometimes collaborations don't work because you have to be ruthless and domineering to get your point across because if you look at it as trespassing on someone else's art it doesn't work. In our case there wasn't anything to worry about.

[At this point someone pulled out a baseball and asked Ray to sign it. Ray signed it "yr pal" in imitation of how a specific baseball player signed baseballs.]

Do you have a favorite piece in the show?
I haven't seen it yet. We were working on it the last couple days but I haven't made it around the room yet.

At this point Raymond's wife, artist Aida Ruilova, popped in and asked Raymond, "Will you sign my boobies?" After which Raymond attempted to move through the gallery with a swirling crowd of fans, assistants, and collectors shuffling around him.

The show is good, go see it. The zine is good, go buy it.

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