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 Vik Muniz  (1961 - )

About: Vik Muniz


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Lived/Active: California / Brazil      Known for: non objective

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Ad Code: 3
Vik Muniz
from Auction House Records.
© Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY See Details
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is excerpted from from of March 2, 2001


It's not that Vik Muniz likes to reduce the work of other artists to dust; far from it. One of his claimed aims is to get viewers to look harder at the originals.

In his show at the Whitney Museum, "The Things Themselves: Pictures of Dust by Vik Muniz," he uses Minimalist and post-Minimalist sculptures and paintings exhibited at the Whitney over a 30-year period as the basis for nine pictures literally made from dust.

If Minimalism stripped art down, reducing it to bare self-referential essentials, Mr. Muniz figured, why couldn't Minimalism itself be pared? The mass and permanence of the work could be belied though certainly not belittled by a ghostly haze of dust. (An incidental benefit for viewers, not cited by Mr. Muniz, is a better grasp of the role dust plays in fogging our
perception of objects.)

So, using grit gleaned from the Whitney's galleries and offices, he made drawings from its photographic archives of works by such maestros of Mimimalism as Richard Serra, Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Tony Smith, Barry Le Va and Carl Andre, along with paintings by Ad Reinhardt and Barnett Newman. Then he photographed the drawings and enlarged them, so that the results are reproductions of reproductions, several times removed from the real thing.

Joke, ha? Not meant as one. The funny thing is that a few of these dustscapes, blown up to fairly large scale, turn out to be quite dramatic in their black- and-white bleakness, something more than just photographs of sculptural installations. In fact one of them, "Robert Morris, Untitled (L-Beams)" (1965), with its blocky uprights, horizontals and diagonals, looks like the stark ruins of a future city.

Mr. Muniz's title for this show, "The Things Themselves," comes from a statement made in 1924 by the photographer Edward Weston that the camera should be used for "rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh."

But he takes issue with Weston in wondering what the "very substance" is that a photograph conveys. In this case, is it the dust, the installation photographs, the original works of art or photography itself?

One must conclude that it is the dust dragged in by Mr. Muniz,based on the argument that a photograph is not only a representation of a real thing but also a real thing in its own right.

By a shaky logic, these drawings made from photographs, then photographed again, could be judged even realer, with the addition of hard- working grit that you never see when you look at well-kempt Minimal art in upscale galleries.

In fact, the dust is quite observable even without close scrutiny. It occurs in the form of individual strands of hair and minuscule mats of them, flecks of paper, tiny flakes of dirt, fragments of pebbles and other bits of detritus.

Never have motes been such a presence in art. They blur the hard-edge outlines of the sculptures and paintings so that besides the ruins of future cities they put one in mind of aging movie stars photographed through filters.

Once a sculptor himself, the Brazilian-born photographer turned to
his present activities when he became more interested in pictures
he took of his work.

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