Vik Muniz: The Illusionist

Vik Muniz repurposes everyday materials, such as chocolate, ash, dirt, peanut butter, and jelly, to create intricate and heavily layered trompe l’oeil renderings, often of iconic artworks. Muniz’s highly-constructed works are not only “legible” on various levels but also call attention to their own legibility, conveying an image without concealing the language — or rather, the linguistics — of the image conveyed. In 2008, he undertook a large-scale project in Brazil, photographing trash-pickers as figures from emblematic paintings, such as Jacques-Louis David’s Neoclassical Death of Marat, and then recreating the photographs in large-scale arrangements of trash. The project was documented in the 2010 film Waste Land in an attempt to raise awareness for urban poverty.

Muniz’s distinctive practice explores and revels in the instability that exists between craft and mechanical reproduction, between high art and popular culture, between the ephemeral and the perdurable, the coded and the recognizable. Muniz has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions at museums including Art Museum of Banco de la República (Bogotá), Beyeler Foundation, MoMA P.S. 1 (NYC), the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo (São Paulo), MACRO (Rome), the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin), and the Menil Collection (Houston), and his work is included in major private and public collections around the world.
With support from the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) and Institute for the Humanities.