The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University serves as the only Midwest venue for a major mid-career retrospective of the celebrated contemporary photographer Vik Muniz in fall 2016.
Co-organized by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Vik Muniz covers more than twenty-five years of the imaginative artist’s career and features over 80 photographs, including many of Muniz’s most recent works. The exhibition will travel internationally following its presentation at the Eskenazi Museum of Art from October 1, 2016 through February 5, 2017.
Along with the exhibition, the Eskenazi Museum is purchasing—with generous support from David and Martha Moore and Judi and Milt Stewart—the powerful diptych George Stinney Jr., from Muniz's Album series. This addition to the museum's permanent collection will make sure Muniz's rich artwork lives on in Bloomington long after the exhibition is over. A photographic depiction of a collage made of thousands of photos, the work is based on the mug shots of the youngest man ever to be executed in the United States. The diptych speaks to a recurring theme of social justice found in Muniz's work, and will provide a powerful addition to the museum's collection of over 12,000 photographs.
One of the most innovative and creative artists of our time, Vik Muniz (born 1961, São Paulo, Brazil) is renowned for creating what he calls “photographic delusions.” Working with a dizzying array of unconventional materials—including sugar, tomato sauce, diamonds, magazine clippings, chocolate syrup, dust, and junk—he painstakingly constructs 3-D pictures before recording them with his camera. His resulting, large-scale photographs often quote iconic images from popular culture and the history of art while defying easy classification and challenging viewers’ perception. From a distance, the subject of each resulting photograph is discernible; up close, the work reveals a complex and surprising matrix through which it was assembled. That revelatory moment when one thing transforms into another is of deep interest to Muniz. Although some of his projects involve the use of large crews and heavy equipment, his more recent work utilizes electron microscopes and manipulates microorganisms to unveil both the familiar and the strange in spaces that are typically inaccessible to the human eye. In addition to playing with scale, process, and materials, Muniz explores ideas of appropriation, reproduction, truth, and memory.
The exhibition—his most significant and comprehensive to date—weaves together diverse phases of the artist’s career, ranging from his ground-breaking The Sugar Children series (1996) to his more recent Album pictures (2014-15), created using thousands of found anonymous snapshots arranged to reference images from Muniz’s own family albums. In both, the choice of material from which they were constructed relates to the imagery portrayed. While rooted in a Pop art tradition, some of Muniz’s images address more serious issues of war, colonization, and social injustice (including those related to the award-winning documentary Waste Land). Described as a trickster and a philosopher, Muniz transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary and invites us to look again.
Key works featured in the exhibition will include:
- Prints from the Pictures of Garbage series (2008), for which Muniz worked with pickers from the world’s largest landfill in Rio de Janeiro to construct images using garbage from the dump. These photographs include a re-creation of Jacques-Louis David’s 1793 painting The Death of Marat as a portrait of one of the pickers (Sebastião).
- A re-creation of the iconic Hans Namuth photograph of Jackson Pollock working on a large canvas in his studio, made using chocolate syrup, from Muniz’s Pictures of Chocolate series (1998).
- The world’s most favorite painting—the Mona Lisa—doubly depicted in peanut butter and jelly from Muniz’s series After Warhol (1999).
- A recent photograph from the Sandcastles series (2103), for which he built the world’s smallest sand castles using a scanning electron microscope to etch micro-drawings of castles on individual grains of sand.
- An example from Muniz’s Colonies series (2014), for which the artist collaborated with MIT scientists to employ microorganisms, including bacteria and even cancer cells, to multiply in choreographed designs.