Enshrining his unusual assemblages in the medium of photography, Vik Muniz's art adds new dimensions to established notions of representation.Read More
His 1989 series 'The Best of LIFE' was inspired by photographs from the coffee table publication The Best of LIFE, a book he had owned but lost while moving house. Muniz drew the legendary images in the book by memory— iconic images such as Kiss at Times Square and The Man on the Moon (1989)—then photographed the drawings and presented the photos as final works.
Another series, titled 'Pictures of Clouds' (2001), presents photographs taken by the artist of clouds left by a skywriter as they gradually disintegrated and vanished.
In contrast to fast fading formations of clouds which can easily disappear from memory, art masterpieces such as Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa (1503) and photographs of Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe are deeply planted within popular consciousness.
Muniz's depictions of these images, however, rework the iconography in non-traditional mediums that align with the content of the image. His 2004 portrait of Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Monroe (Pictures of Diamonds), is made of diamonds—in reference to her popular song 'Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend'.
In his 'Pictures of Dust' series (2001), Muniz replicates the works of various famous mid-century American artists—such as Donald Judd's Untitled (1965) and Richard Serra's Prop (1968)—in dust collected from the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Discussing the piece in his Joseph M Cohen Family Collection biography, Muniz said: 'Dust is pieces of hair and skin. I think people scratch their heads a lot in museums; that gets mixed with the residue from the artworks themselves. That's the ultimate bond between the museum visitor and the artwork'.
Muniz has, over the past decade, expanded his visual repertoire beyond contemporary culture to include more personal encounters. In 'Pictures of Garbage' (2008), Muniz presents a series of photographs of garbage pickers he encoutered at an open-air dumpsite called Jardim Gramacho just outside of Rio de Janeiro.
Retaining his interest in iconography, however, he stages the pickers as the subjects of classical portraits, such as the slain titular revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat from Death of Marat (1793) by Jacques-Louis David's. Details in images were accentuated with the garbage that had been scavenged by the models.
In Waste Land (2010), the documentary film accompanying the series, directed by Lucy Walker, Muniz outlines that he wanted to 'change the lives of people with the same materials they deal with every day'. Indeed, with the critical acclaim and success of the documentary, the artist and the filmmakers have been able to donate more than $300,000 to Jardim Gramacho pickers' community.
Paying homage to 20th century modernist masters such as Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, and Sonia Delauney, Vik Muniz's ongoing series 'Superfícies (Surfaces)' (2019-Ongoing) brings renewed focus to physicality, surface and texture in abstract painting.
Often qualities overlooked in remembering such works, Muniz's photographs of his assemblages highlight these surface details, often made invisible in two-dimensional photographic reproductions, through layering and shadow.