February 14, 2004 – March 31st, 2004
From 14 February to 31 March the Galeria Elba Benitez will display recent work by Vik Muniz (Sao Paulo, 1961). This Brazilian artist’s work is characterised by an exploration into the nature of photography, stressing the quality the medium possesses of being an ambiguous document halfway between reality and fiction. To achieve this, Vik Muniz employs icons from the history of art with the aim of inviting the onlooker to discover new interpretations revealing photography’s different layers of meaning. The elements that trigger this new perception are the unexpected materials the picture is made of: chocolate, jam, string and toys. Vik Muniz encourages an active involvement from the onlooker, one that entails deciphering the numerous games posed by the artist. It is an undertaking that navigates between photography, painting and ”collage” to expose the formal, interpretative and functional complexity of photography.
The series on display at the GalerÃa Elba BenÃtez are:
This new series takes its name from an epistolary game, widely practiced in Victorian England, in which words were substituted by pictures. The series consists of five pieces, all of which are re-interpretations of 19th and 20th century photographs, reconstructed out of small toys. In Self portrait as a Drowned Man, after Hyppolyte Bayard, 1870 (2004), Vik Muniz portrays himself in the manner of a photograph taken in 1840 by the French photographer Hyppolyte Bayard (1801-1807). In this work, Bayard portrayed himself by staging a scene in which the artist appears as a ”drowned man”. Historically, it is the first fictional photograph ever taken. This sense of building a story is also applied in Portrait of Alice Liddell, after Lewis Carroll (2004). Lewis Carroll’s famous photograph depicted Alice, dressed up as a street urchin begging for money. The choice of a work by the English photographer William Lake Price, who led the ”combination printing” movement in England in the mid 19th century, is in keeping with this same approach. Don Quixote in his Study, after William Lake Price c. 1890 (2004) reworks one of those pieces by the English artist in which he staged ”impossible” literary scenes depicting fictional characters, such as Don Quixote and Robinson Crusoe, posing in front of his camera. In Self Portrait (I am too sad to tell you, after Bas Jan Ader) (2003), Vik Muniz portrays himself once again, but this time he bases his likeness on one of the scenes from the film I am too sad to tell you (1971) by the Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader, whose work fused conceptual art and romanticism in a very personal manner. In Death of Loyalist Militiaman Federico Borrell Garcia, after Robert Capa, 1937 (2004), Vik Muniz reworks the picture of the death of a militiaman taken by Capa during the Spanish Civil War and which has passed to posterity as the image that epitomised this conflict.
In his monadic theory, the German philosopher Leibniz (1646-1716) refuted the concept of unitary, rigid, stable and inert ”matter”. Applying this theory about matter to photography, Vik Muniz produced his Monads series. The image and, by extension, its interpretation, rather than being static and unitary is evolutive and contains a number of interpretative layers. These monadic works consist of small objects which tell a story by themselves, linked, simultaneously, to the larger story of the whole image they form part of. In this manner, the piece Toy Soldier (2003) produces a picture of a boy soldier made out of small toy soldiers: a bitterly ironic combination of play, war and childhood. In White rose (2003), Muniz composes the image of a pure white rose out of various insects and animals which, in a certain way, contribute to the birth, life and death of the rose.
PICTURES OF MAGAZINES (2003)
A pantheon of famous and anonymous Brazilian personalities. From ”Pela” Edson (2003), to Francisco (2003), a street seller of flowers, and from President ”Lula” Luis (2003), to a soap opera actress Camila (2003), this portrait series is the artist’s tribute to the country of his birth. These ”pointillist” portraits are made from pieces of cut-up magazines. Brazil’s artistic heritage emphasizes the tactile, material sense of artistic creation, but Vik Muniz takes this a step further. The material used in the work becomes more than a mere structural support for the depiction and provokes a real reconsideration of the nature of the photographic image.
PICTURES OF CHOCOLATE (2003)
On occasion of the exhibition held at Centro Galego de Arte Contemporaneo until the 7 March, Vik Muniz walked part of the Way of St. James. This trip led him to depict three of the most important cathedrals of the Way: the cathedrals of Santiago, Burgos and LeÃ³n. To achieve this the artist used the chocolate syrup technique he had made famous in the late nineties. Once again, Muniz demonstrates his astonishing talent for depicting, with striking realism, the baroque filigree of the facade of the Cathedral of Santiago and of the late gothic Cathedrals of Leon and Burgos.
In 2003, Vik Muniz had numerous one-man shows of his work. Among the foremost of these was the exhibition held at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, Indianapolis, the Retratos de Revista show at the Pao Imperial, in Rio de Janeiro, and at the MACRO -Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome. He currently has shows on display at the Pinacoteca del Estado, in Sao Paulo, as well as at the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporaneo, in Santiago de Compostela. In 2004, the latter exhibition will travel to the Irish Museum of Contemporary Art, in Dublin, and, afterwards, to the Fundacion Telefonica, in Madrid, from 17 November to 9 January 2005. His work has been selected on many occasions to represent the Brazilian and Latin American art scene; such as his involvement, in 2001, in the 49 Venice Biennale as Brazil’s representative, his participation in the Brazil: Body and Soul exhibition at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in 2002, and in La Mirada The Art of Photography in Latin America today, at the Fundacion Daros, Zurich, in 2003. His work is included in some of the world’s leading private and public collections, such as The Whitney Museum of American Art of New York, The Museum of Modern Art of New York, The Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, The National Museum of Art, Osaka City, the Maison Europaenne de la Photographie of Paris, the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid and The Tate Gallery in London.
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