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Vik Muniz

Brazilian Photographer, Sculptor, and Conceptual Artist

Vik Muniz Photo
Movements and Styles: Conceptual Art, Modern Photography

Born: December 20, 1961 - São Paulo, Brazil

"Things look like things, they are embedded in the transience of each other's meaning; a thing looks like a thing, which looks like another thing, or another. This eternal ricocheting of meaning throughout the elemental proves representation to be natural and nature to be representational."

Vik Muniz Signature

Summary of Vik Muniz

Art photography has been around since the early 19th century as a viable way to see behind the eyes and into the mind of an artist. Yet contemporary artist Vik Muniz has managed to repurpose its traditional uses beyond presenting images at face value by treating photographs as source material, building block, and inspiration for more complex works. Verging on mixed media, and with a conceptual spin, Muniz's art asks us to question our relationship with illusion and perception, going deeper into the familiar to uncover layers of added meaning.

With his recycling and manipulation of imagery, Muniz's work questions the idea that artistic creativity involves coming up with a completely original idea and champions the idea of expounding upon the existent. Historical artworks, scenes from popular culture, iconic people from our communal consciousness, and cross sections of contemporary, global life highlighting lesser known social issues and marginalized communities are all prey to Muniz's investigations into how we are affected by, and find meaning within, what we see.

Key Ideas

In addition to his reworking of the age-old medium of photography, Muniz is noted for using a variety of eclectic and found materials such as chocolate, jelly, tomato sauce, diamonds, toys, and trash to recreate his or others' original imagery. The materials forward connections between what he is visually presenting and the underlying messages he wishes to convey about his subject matter.
Multi step process defines much of Muniz's work. Whether drawing, then photographing his own drawings for presentation; taking pictures that are then recreated using non-photographic materials on varying scales; or creating manufactured instances to photograph as reality, the steps involved in the artist's finished work catapults him beyond the realms of mere photography into the annals of Conceptual Art.
By photographing the "simulated real," Muniz destabilizes the concept of photography itself and instigates viewers to look beyond the surface. Described as both a "provocateur" and a "prankster," the artist questions the notion of reality and representation. In doing so, he touches on a variety of issues like "the reconnection of art with its public; art's relation to figuration and with the social-historical; and the demystifying of the false quarrel between photography and painting," as writer Affonso Romano de Sant'Anna maintains.
Muniz has said that he does not believe in originals, but rather believes in individuality. And indeed, in his photo manipulation and methodology, he truly creates signature works that repurpose and showcase themes in different lights for his viewers. He sees photography as having "freed painting from its responsibility to depict the world as fact."
Glass mosaic of subway riders that Muniz envisioned, a work that is now publicly displayed at the 72nd street, 2nd Ave subway line in New York City.

Muniz decided to become an artist when he discovered Jeff Koons’s enigmatic vacuum cleaner and basketball sculptures. Muniz said: “I realized that I could be an artist too. He was speaking my language.”

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