Installation View
Pictures of Paper – Nichido Contemporary Art

Tokyo, Japan
October 22, 2010 – November 20, 2010

nca | nichido contemporary art is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new works by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, who has acquired a deep understanding of Japanese history and culture over the course of numerous visits to Japan. While doing research in preparation for his first one-man show at nca, Muniz discovered that many leading ukiyo-e woodblock print artists lived in Tokyo’s Hatchobori and Kyobashi districts during the Edo period. The richness and expressive power found in the works of these artists also made a deep impression on him. On display at this exhibition are selected works from his ongoing “Pictures of Paper” series that borrow motifs from these ukiyo-e prints, as well as other pieces inspired by Western paintings in which Muniz has identified a certain Japanese aesthetic.

Vik Muniz created his “Pictures of Pigment” series based on the idea that “all traces of human activity, technology and language can only exist through the act of photographing the environment in which they unfold”. These works were made by applying various kinds of pigment onto reproductions of famous paintings by Picasso in order to deconstruct them. By simplifying the materials used in the original works, Muniz’s “Pictures of Pigment” allude to the origin and source of all artistic materials. Inspired by the systematic layering of colors used to create Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints, his most recent works from the “Pictures of Paper” series on display at this exhibition appropriate motifs from ukiyo-e by Hiroshige Utagawa.

Using a digital scanner, Muniz scans pictures of the original works, prints them out and cuts them out by hand. These paper cutouts are then pasted together in layers to create a pictorial surface that is photographed, and finally blown up to measure almost 2 meters across. The crispness of form and color in these pictures is filled with a visual intensity: these paintings have been deconstructed with the aim of making them “pictures”. Fascinated by the sheer simplicity with which ukiyo-e prints are produced and their rich and complex undertones, Muniz uses the technique of layered paper in order to retrace the process by which these prints were made, as well as to investigate the truth behind the rich expressive power of this medium.

In attempting to get to grips with these works, our eyes are drawn to the rough, jagged contours and surface textures that resemble so many fine layers of crepe paper. By being photographed, these “pictures” have acquired a strange sense of presence, while their vibrant and glossy colors almost seem to jut out from the surface.

Ukiyo-e prints depict rich and complex “pictures” using clear, distinct forms that fascinated artists like Matisse and Gauguin. Their economy of line also exerted a profound influence on the post-Impressionist Cloisonnism movement. Several other pieces on display at this exhibition appropriate motifs from paintings of waves by Winslow Homer and finely detailed depictions of plants by Durer. Contemplating the color and rhythm created by the flowing lines found in flowers and nature with a clear, easy and detached gaze, the viewer witnesses all these elements coming together to form a harmonious whole.

These works cheerfully offer us a fresh, intellectual way of looking at “pictures”.

                - Yuko Hasegawa (Chief curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo)

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