“Time” magazine called this artist one of the leaders of the new millennium while the New York Times recommended his works as a reliable tranquilizer.
For more than a decade Vik Muniz (b. 1961, San Paolo, Brazil) has been intriguing the world with his creations marked by an amazing mixture of techniques, approaches, and interpretations of the surrounding reality. The history of world art for him is not just some dead past but the computer RAM (Random Access Memory) without which you can’t exist for a single day nowadays. This is the basis for his unceasing dialogue with his contemporaries.
The younger generation today turns increasingly less frequently to the “irrelevant” experience of the past. Trapped as they are in the new technologies and the modern mass media they have no time for the museums of classical art.
Muniz’s works revive their interest towards the history of painting, and they do so in a perfectly natural way, without even a hint of didacticism and moralizing. Using a number of works by past masters as his starting point Vik Muniz skillfully recreates them in utterly mundane modern-day materials and thus he obliterates the barriers between the ages so that these works cease to be just museum relics and come to attract a live interest from the most youthful viewer.
Muniz’s works, initially perceived at the superficial level as witty ambiguities, in fact raise a whole range of issues related to the perception of visual information, its presentation and its interpretation by the viewer. Characteristically for Muniz, he is constantly assuming new guises and switching roles, being successively an artist, a sculptor, simply a craftsman and then a photographer, a conceptualist, a joker, and finally a critic.
His work makes a natural part of the post-modern conception of our times. Suffice it to point out his perception of contemporary events as multi-layered texts, the so-called “pictures within a picture” (he had been interested in this approach from the start, see his “Two Nails”, 1987).
Muniz’s work is interactive. Apart from their aesthetic effect his works also provoke the viewer (in a positive sense) to ponder on the question how and what they are made of thus turning him into a co-author, or co-creator. It is very rarely in art that this effect has such a concentrated embodiment. After the initial recognition a moment comes when the viewer realizes that he/she is confronted with something completely different from what meets the eye first. The illusions conjured up by the artist, which have become his signature tune, brought him worldwide fame and recognition.
“Humor is a very serious matter for me,” says Vik Muniz. “It is precisely our sense of humor and certain visual tricks that determine our evaluation of a work of art. They trigger off that response in us which compels us either to linger in front of a work of art or go past it. From the moment you’ve managed to ‘hook’ the viewer you can allow yourself to display your depth and erudition to him.”
Vic Muniz has been part of our gallery’s program from our very first exhibition “We can do it!” His works provide a very clear set of instructions on the technology of the creative process, from the first stage when the idea has just been born to its final embodiment in a concrete object.
This time Gary Tatintsian Gallery presents Vik Muniz’s “Russian Project” which reflects the view of a contemporary Western artist on the history of Russian artistic creativity. From the vast body of famous canonical works, beginning with icon painting and up to the Russian avant-garde, Muniz selected his own “hot dozen” giving preference to Malevich, Rodchenko, Vereshchagin, Vrubel, and Mashkov.
His choice is symbolic. Having paid his respects to the traditional painting (Vereshchagin’s “The Apotheosis of War”) and his tribute to the precursors (Vrubel and Mashkov) of the future “revolutionaries in art”, Muniz focuses on Russia’s main contribution to the world art, that is, Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematism and Alexander Rodchenko’s Constructivism. Both have had an enormous influence on world painting and anticipated the American minimal art and geometric conceptualism. To this day Malevich and Rodchenko continue to inspire contemporary artists to create works reflecting the spirit of the times.
It’s a paradox, but an interpretation by a contemporary artist may be closer to the modern man’s consciousness and more interesting to him than the original works created more than a hundred years ago.