Vik Muniz - Photographs New York Monday, April 4, 2016 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Galerie Xippas, Paris

  • Literature

    Capivara, Vik Muniz: Obra Completa 1987-2009, p. 679
    Actes Sud, Vik Muniz: Le Musée Imaginaire, p. 153

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Every representational image is a promise of depth, a surface separating the realms of mind and matter, a sort of window into somebody else’s experience.”

    Vik Muniz’s artwork has a grand accessibility, in a modern day Warholian manner, and through an extensive visual language touches the viewers’ collective memory. The fascination and exploration of the language lies at the foundation of his work and is entrenched with dualities and his own personal influences. The artist’s blue collar upbringing in São Paulo interwoven with his path to the United States and love of art history add complexity to the creation of the images. Conceptually and practically the dichotomies and tension are evident through the ever-changing, democratic selection of materials where all sources are equal. Puzzles, dirt, pigment, wire, magazines, spaghetti, chocolate, caviar, or diamonds are only a few of the materials he has used in his oeuvre, but the final product is consistent and always taken through the lens of a camera. Muniz’s choice to use photography is deliberate to achieve the optical illusions and layering he desires, “... photography has the power of rendering visual input not as the eye perceives it, but as the brain develops it - as a finished intellectual product.”.

    Early on, Muniz was taken with work by Chuck Close for his approach to scale, Josef Albers’ exploration of color, and Ed Ruscha’s use of unorthodox materials. These predecessors heavily influenced Muniz’s work along with his innate love and fascination of fine art museums. Like Chuck Close shifting the traditional vantage point and exposing the brush marks and inner workings of the painting, Muniz’s Pictures of Pigment series displays the raw powdered form of paint in large scale recreating masterpieces such as Red, Orange, Orange on Red, after Mark Rothko, 2008 (lot 81) and Convergence Number 10, after Jackson Pollock, 2008 (lot 138) showcasing pieces by abstract expressionist painters where the use and choice of color in paint was paramount.

    His insight into early recollections of walking in an art museum clean and pristine against the contrasting world of the streets of the city, full of noise, smell, and movement challenged him with the separation of the serene museum reality and the outside world. In taking masterpieces like Orphan Girl at the Cemetery after Eugene Delacroix from Gordian Puzzles, 2007 (lot 109) and The Absinthe Drinker after Edgar Degas from Pictures of Magazines, 2011 (lot 156) the duality in representing the masterpieces from their grandiose museum settings with tactile, commonplace, and accessible materials like magazines and puzzles echoes that separation. The use of these disparate sources to build an optical illusion creates a visual tension and reflects contradictions. Similarly, the Pictures of Chocolate series, short-circuits the original and recognizable historic images like Immigrant (lot 220), with the associations of chocolate: love, luxury, romance, and guilt. Much like the masterpieces depicted in moveable puzzle pieces, and scraps of magazine pages, he displays the recognizable historic moments with an optical twist of rendering them in sugary chocolate. With each group he continues to push the vision “Working in series, I try to grab the core of an idea by exploring its limits through variations”.

    The Pictures of Diamonds series stands as the most opulent of sources, although he was unfamiliar in working with diamonds a collector lent them to the artist to create a project for a charity auction. Like the Pigment series he amplifies the subject with the source in showcasing the most iconic Hollywood stars such as Audrey Hepburn (lot 232), Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe, “I wanted to test the degree of interference between the overkill of glamour of the stars themselves and that of the shiny rocks.”. On the other end of the spectrum for the Bienal de São Paulo in 1998 Muniz created his Aftermath series using urban waste and detritus from the day after Carnival festivities to portray portraits of homeless children in the city, again amplifying and layering his large inviting images with an undercurrent of intention.

    The Beautiful Earth from the Pictures of Pigment series 2007 (lot 82) epitomizes Muniz’s democratic approach to image making which draws people in with the familiarity of material and images to find upon closer inspection that he has placed his own personal filter on what seemed known and recognizable. Almost 30 years after his first solo gallery show in New York the artist’s work is now held in over 123 public collections worldwide and this year being celebrated with a retrospective at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.


A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, after Georges Seurat from Gordian Puzzles

Chromogenic print.
40 1/4 x 60 in. (102.2 x 152.4 cm)
Signed, dated in ink, printed title, date and number 1/6 on a gallery label affixed to the reverse of the flush-mount.

$35,000 - 45,000 

Sold for $43,750

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New York Auction 4 April 2016