About the Photographer
Brazilian, b. 1961
Originally trained as a sculptor, Vik Muniz uses unconventional materials, including chocolate syrup, sequins, and thread to recreate well-known works of art or images from popular culture. After he constructs his own version of their likeness, he photographs these new sculptural "drawings." In the series Pictures of Dust, Muniz took the dust collected over several months by the maintenance staff at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and used it to create drawings based on installation photographs of the museum's collection of Minimal and Post-minimal sculpture. In Muniz's photographs of these renderings – printed at almost the scale of the sculptures themselves – the dust is easily discernible and its constituent hair, pebbles, and small scraps of paper appear larger than life. Ironically, dust is usually the nemesis of the pristine photographic print and polished sculptural surface. The photographs are in color, but due to the monochromatic nature of dirt and dust particles, appear black and white; quite possibly as the installation photographs, or the photographs from which Muniz learned about Minimal sculpture in the first place, also were. With this sort of visual trickery Muniz subverts photography by employing it to reveal its own unreliability.
Muniz has used an array of techniques to insightfully transform objects and works of art into meditations on perception, art, and illusion. To create his project Pictures of Clouds, for example, he commissioned a skywriter to make cartoonish sketches of clouds in the sky. In another series, Muniz uses chocolate syrup to render canonical art works such as Hans Namuth's famous photograph of Jackson Pollock at work. In this picture, Muniz's squirted Bosco syrup mirrors Pollock's dripped paint. Muniz's chocolate drawing, like the moment captured by Namuth's shutter, is ephemeral. In a playful twist, Muniz even enlarges his photograph to the size of a Pollock painting so that the picture (of the picture) of the artist operates on the same scale as one of his paintings.
While much of Muniz’s practice underscores artistic spontaneity and the fragile nature of art objects themselves, his unexpected materials also reflect shifting attitudes around visual icons. In response to recent historical events, American Flag (2009) shows the national banner as a flower arrangement. The print forms part of the America: Now and Here portfolio (2009), also containing work by Lyle Ashton Harris, Ross Bleckner, Chuck Close, Eric Fischl, Ralph Gibson, April Gornik, Sally Mann, Andres Serrano, Lou Reed, David Salle, Laurie Simmons, and Bill Viola. Muniz’s flowers conjure the grave markers of 9/11 victims as well as the newly recognized vulnerability of the United States. At the same time, the fresh floral composition bespeaks rebirth and hope in the wake of tragedy.
Born in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1961, Vik Muniz currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He has exhibited his works internationally, including at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museu de Art Moderna, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil; Musée de l'Élisée Lausanne, Switzerland; and the Fondation Huis Marseille, Amsterdam. Muniz's work is included in the collections of numerous museums including the Art Institute of Chicago; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museo de Arte Contemporanea, Prato, Italy; Museo de Arte Moderna de Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.