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"Vik Muniz: 50 Highly-Original Photographs"
2004-04-02 until 2004-06-13
Irish Museum of Modern Art
Dublin, , IE

An exhibition of more than 50 highly-original photographs by the Brazilian artist Vik Muniz opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Friday 2 April 2004.  Vik Muniz, the first showing of the artist’s work in Ireland, presents a number of Muniz’s best-known series, including Pictures of Wire, The Sugar Children and Pictures of Chocolate. All are based on Muniz’s extraordinary visual language, which he uses to twist and redefine our perception not only of a wide array of subjects, from the Mona Lisa to a black and white cow, but also the very act of seeing itself. The exhibition is presented in association with the Kerry Group.

Muniz’s work poses the question of how a culture, which relentlessly produces far too many visual images for any single consciousness to process, can reinvest the act of seeing with a sense of both pleasure and provocation. Working with materials as diverse as wire, thread, dust, toy soldiers and jelly, Muniz first fashions an image from his chosen material, manipulating it as if it were a sculpture and then creates a photograph of the object he has produced. His approach is at once humorous and critical, challenging our ability to discern fact from fiction, and reality from illusion. By attaching a nose to a human skull or recreating da Vinci’s The Last Supper in chocolate, Muniz flouts artistic convention, good taste and high art seriousness. A portrait, a landscape, an iconic historical image – Muniz’s pictures are never quite what they seem.

The Sugar Children (1996) series owes its origin to a Caribbean holiday during which Muniz was struck by the happiness of the local children, as opposed to the resigned attitude of their parents, many of whom worked for low wages in the sugar industry. Prompted by the disparity between the popular image of sugar and the conditions under which it is produced, Muniz set out to portray the children that he had met using sugar as the transitional medium. In the Pictures of Soil (1997 – 98) series the images of outstretched hands and a child’s torso use the association between soil and mortality to point up the fleeting nature of human existence.

IMMA Director Enrique Juncosa describes the key to Muniz’s appeal as “precisely the way in which he mixes a conceptual approach with what is appealing to the eye. Also, his warmth and sense of humour. The works are also able to arouse questions –philosophical or political even – beyond our understanding of what we are seeing.” He sees Muniz as “part of a generation of brilliant and original Brazilian artists. In a more general context, he also belongs to an international generation of artists, who extend the tradition of conceptual art, including retinal pleasure, to analyse the nature of representation.”

Vik Muniz was born in 1961 in São Paulo, Brazil, and currently lives and works in New York. He has exhibited extensively, including one-person shows in the International Centre of Photography, New York; Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco; Galeri Lars Bohman, Stockholm, and the Galeria Camargo Vilaça, São Paulo. His work has been included in many group exhibitions, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Centro Cultural Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City; the Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janerio, and many other prestigious venues.

Vik Muniz is a touring exhibition, which was first shown at CGAC in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, then at IMMA and finally at the Fundación Telefónica, Madrid.

A publication, with essays by Miguel Fernández-Cid, Director of CGAC, and curator of the show, and Dan Cameron, Director of the New Museum of New York, accompanies the exhibition.

Vik Muniz continues in the New Galleries at IMMA until 13 June 2003.

Vik Muniz
Toy Soldier, 2003
182.9 x 233.7 cm
Courtesy Galería Elba Benítez, Madrid.

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