VIK MUNIZ. Summer in the City, After Edward Hopper.For him, these materials has the potential to become art and transform the way in which people see the world. Each pieces turns into a surprise for the viewer. In his, now iconic series, Children of Sugar, he reproduced snapshots taken of children, through the use of sugar. On a sheet of black paper, he carefully sprinkled the sugar so that little by little the portraits became outlined. The sugar crystals alluded to the essential role of sugar in children’s lives, but also to the characteristics of the photographic film, which is covered with microscopic crystals of silver nitrate. In Images of Chocolate, he used liquid chocolate. “Some materials are more difficult to handle than others. To work with sugar, as it is the case with dust, you need to use swabs or damp cotton and delicate movements. To work with chocolate you have to be fast because it dries very quickly and can only be handled in the course of an hour,” explains the artist, before adding: “I know that, at the end, it may seem fairly arbitrary to create a piece with chocolate syrup, but I actually reflect on the relationship between one thing and another (…) Sometimes I start with a particular type of image and then I look for the right material to further develop it; others times I choose a technique or material and try to make different types of images until I find the one that works best for me”.
In Images of Paper, he recreates the work of photography icons such as Margaret Bourke-White, Arnold Newman, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Charles Sheeler, Weegee, Edward Weston or Garry Winogrand. Layers of uncoiled thread construct the drawings in his series Images of Thread. “The volumes of layers create the feeling of distance: the images in the foreground are represented by the accumulation of thick layers of thread while the distant elements appear to be thinner”, says the artist. That is how Muniz relates to the aerial perspective of traditional landscapes. One of his most significant collections is Images of Garbage, which depicts the conditions of the people who work and live in the world’s largest landfill, Jardim Gramacho in Rio de Janeiro, making a living by recycling what they find. He portrays then in allegorical settings and then creates the images with their help, using the materials they have recycled.
1. Portrait of Monica Viti.
Muniz is not a photographer, illustrator or painter. He embodies all those disciplines at the same time. He fuses drawing and photography, light and molding clay, clouds and cotton, graphite and wires. The Brazilian artist employs different media and materials, usually altering their conventional use. He has always used photography, his “most precious and dear muse” as the backbone of his creative work.
Vik Muniz also recreates, in his pieces, the likeness of characters from pop culture such as Dracula, Frankenstein or Elizabeth Taylor, or masterpieces by painters like Edward Hopper, Paul Cezanne, Caravaggio or Andy Warhol. Some of his images have deep political connotations. However, Muniz doesn’t want to appropriate anything; his purpose is to “link image and genre to allow the viewer, when he/she sees the picture again, to trace the path that connects the different versions.” It is like a game of find the difference between two pictures.
Without a doubt, to approach the work of Muniz is to experiences a series of questions and feelings, a provocation and a game, an unknown journey, where he seems to exit his work, look you in the eye and tell you “come, come, come closer to the image”. ■