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 Robert Lee Munoz  (1940 - )

About: Robert Lee Munoz
 

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Lived/Active: Illinois/New Mexico      Known for: multi-media, abstract painting and sculpture

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Robert Lee Munoz
An example of work by Robert Lee Munoz
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, submitted December 2005, is from the artist.

My art, since I was a young man, included many and varied media from photography to sculpting and painting.

Now, as  a professional painter, I have chosen the abstract as the most absorbing kind of art.  To me, it provides the freedom  to enter the world of imagination and perception as no other human activity can permit beyond pure thought.

Very rarely do I approach a canvas with a specific idea or plan.  My process is to imagine what is waiting to appear.  Sometimes the size of the canvas will initiate the work; the bigger the surface, the larger the ideas seem to be.

I avoid certain areas.  The center is a place I rarely focus on or try to create as a main idea.  Working from all sides, usually  on a table or the floor, I think of myself stepping into the painting and I use this area as a place to play in with colors and textures that feel good and pleasing and exciting to my eyes.  Shapes and forms become less important, yet, I keep my mind open  to suggestions and will often pursue a design that is compatible with my chosen colors.

This highly subjective manner of painting can be called automatic or action painting.  Yes, there are many accidents, some are happy, some are bad.  The bad accidents are mistakes.  If I can correct a mistake with another happy accident, then my painting ultimately succeeds in bringing me joy. I  become a happy traveler in a universe I call my painting.

Once I have finished a painting I can now behold the journey I have taken and continue to marvel at my experience along the way.  No one can appreciate this better than myself…it represents a happy place that I visited.

I would hope that my art is viewed as an expression of life as it unfolds in the inner spirit and manifests the subconscious as conscious.  What one feels can be transformed into what one sees and visa versa.

It is not that one is always happy or sad, confused or lucid, bright or dark.  It is not that our feelings dictate what and how we see, nor what we see necessarily that leads to how we feel. But moreover, it is the constant shifting of our emotions in small and subtle ways that brings us to a conscious life.

Interacting with a work of abstract art is an experience that without preconceived ideas or opinions can in fact be enjoyed as much as the artist enjoyed in it’s making.

It is really not important what I may have thought or attempted to express…It just happened.  What is important now is what you are thinking or what the painting is helping you to think or see.

Perhaps all life is just an accident and God was just playing around in his studio one day when it all started to happen…thank God!

An element of my art is based on study and work completed in graduate courses at the University of Chicago, known for it’s ground breaking scientists in Physics, Astrophysics, Atomic Energy, Cosmology and Astronomy.  On the micro scale my studies in Microbiology and Genetics, provided me with more than enough information to form my own opinions and ultimate theory of style.  I am not including the new science of chaos.  By excluding the latter, I discount the idea that random, or worse, careless expressions exist in my work.  I am held fast to one enormous restriction: “Somehow the flow of light always remains within the bounds necessary to carve a shape in phosphorous. To that extent the role of chance is an illusion”.


Background

Robert Muñoz was born in Bridgeport, a poor neighborhood on the south side of Chicago.  Though his father was educated as an electrical engineer in Mexico, he could only find work as a fry cook when he immigrated to America.  Muñoz’s mother was originally from Mississippi, where her family had long worked as sharecroppers.  His parents stressed the importance of self-reliance and encouraged him to follow his dreams.  Nothing was out of reach, if he worked for it.

Muñoz’s search for authentic artistic expression has taken many years.  Aside from a successful thirty year-long career in Hispanic and public broadcasting, Muñoz also tried his hand at advertising and even designed a line of beauty products.  At 65, Muñoz has finally reached a point in his life where he can realize his passion.  His passion which originated as a young man where he developed his skills in photography stayed in his mind and heart throughout his early adult life and much of which was transferred to his advertising and marketing endeavors. After his retirement, this was now an opportunity to explore a full time professional career in art.
 
The Artist’s Work

Twentieth-century modernism has partly been about proving that the Renaissance invention of perspective is not necessary in a picture.  Muñoz has brought back perspective to his abstract painting, reconstructing the artificial world with the use of emotional lines that twist and spring forward like bees or fire flies.  These lines repeatedly spin in random patterns challenging the eye to see the landscape beyond.  

Painting to Muñoz is only half of the experience.  Preparation of the canvas as well as choosing the materials is, in part, a religious experience.  He experiments with different color, waxes and varnishes that are dripped on the face of the picture from above.  His paintings are of mixed media which includes several kinds of paint, pigments that he finds in nature, house paint, store bought acrylics, paper, and strips of canvas.

Muñoz has studied the work of Pablo Picasso, Jackson  Pollock, Joan Miro, and Luc Leestemaker, a Dutch-American landscape painter.  Muñoz has also been inspired by Urbici Soler, a noted Spanish sculptor, whose monumental work, a large sculpture of the crucifixion called Cristo Rey, is situated on a mountain peak near Sierra de Cristo Rey near El Paso, Texas.  Muñoz is also proficient in sculpture, using Alabaster he mined from a secret spot known only to him and the old man who showed him the place.

Artist Statement

Robert Munoz

It is sometimes hard to explain what kind of art I make.  I usually answer simply, “all kinds”.  To be more specific, it can be described as “abstract” sometimes, pure, with no apparent subject and nothing but color harmony and design, texture and dimension.

In some of my work there are clearly moments of impression, mystical expression or moods mixed with dreams that resemble reality and perhaps even suggest it.  They stop short in detail however, leaving nothing more than one’s imagination to interpret and understand.  I am not particularly interested in copying nature or attempting to improve upon it.  My goal is to present my concepts and ideas, forged and shaped by my life experience in the past, present and imagined future.

Most of my work beings with a vague idea, a concept floating in my mind.  Sometimes these ideas are triggered by a feeling or vision that appears quietly or excitedly, not unlike the sense of smell, touch, or taste.  Whatever it is at the time, my impulse is to catch it, to actualize it on canvas board, paper, whatever is at hand.

Like writing a poem, playing music or painting, making art of any kind only requires the desire to do so.  Yet, artwork is not complete without presentation and remains silent without interpretation.

I am compelled to share this wonderful experience, to discuss it with others and perhaps, in some way, to inspire others to create.  Whether it is painting, sculpture, photography,  music or even culinary skills, art is what enhances our culture and brings us together in an almost spiritual way.  The intellectual and emotional contact we make through art is one of the greatest gifts of all…that of being human and alive.

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