Sweet and Dreamy

Vik Muniz makes unexpected art.

Another aspect of his confectionary approach to photography are the 1999 images based on Aaron Siskind's 1950s photos of divers in mid-air. It's amazing how much naturalism Muniz is able to squeeze out of the Bosco! These photos of drawings are incredibly lyrical, and though they essentially follow the Siskind originals, they have a very different quality because Muniz has reduced them to half-tones — as he has with all the chocolate photos — instead of the fully fleshed-out grays of the originals.

Also riffing on the history of photography is the "Equivalents: The Museum of Modern Art" series, from 1999. In these small photos, inspired by Alfred Stieglitz's natural abstractions, Muniz photographed the random patterns of the marble floors at MoMA.

Muniz has been relentless in exploring the use of new materials to provide the basis for his photos. The 2002 "drawings" built from wire that he used for his versions of Rembrandt's "Beggar" portraits definitely underscore his tremendous hand-to-eye coordination, and they're really convincing as pencil sketches, even if they are actually photos of bas-relief sculptures.

"Action Photo, Namuth of Pollock," by Vik Muniz, Cibachrome print.
"Action Photo, Namuth of Pollock," by Vik Muniz, Cibachrome print.

Details

Though January 20, Museo de las Américas, 861 Santa Fe Drive, 303-571-4401, www.museo.org. For a slide show preview of the exhibit, visit our slide show gallery.

Since the installation isn't chronological, it might not be obvious that Muniz has recently turned to color after working in black and white or monochrome for a long time.

This change is seen in his monumental and majestic works from 2004 and 2005. These pieces represent not only an aesthetic shift, but a major advancement in his conceptual path. In the early pieces, homogenous materials — cotton, chocolate syrup or wire, in the pieces here — that could be seen as being neutral from an intellectual standpoint were employed. But in the color pieces, Muniz often uses pre-existing images for his materials, thus effortlessly adding another level of meaning. A perfect example is "Kyber Pass, Self portrait as an Oriental, After Rembrandt," from 2005, in which the details are filled in with photos of colorful junk — umbrellas, toys, computer screens, wheels — that have been miniaturized and assembled as a montage. So, whereas before he was doing photos of appropriated images employing ad hoc art materials, in these more recent pieces he is using appropriated materials in addition to appropriated images.

Also in 2005, Muniz did some gigantic photos based on Monet's shadow-and-light studies of the Rouen Cathedral. These photographs are from Muniz's "Pigment" series, a name that suggests that the originals are none other than paintings. It's another thoughtful leap for Muniz within the same conceptual strategy he's been following.

Remastered doesn't include Muniz's outrageous and ambitious projects of the last few years, such as the photos of clouds that were produced by skywriting airplanes that Muniz directed, or the aerial shots of huge line drawings made by backhoes in the Arizona desert. The two are essentially opposite sides of the same coin, and they go back directly to his cotton clouds and his pictures of marble floors, respectively.

Postmodernism has mostly petered out — or devolved into neo-traditionalism — but Muniz has obviously found endless possibilities in being hermeneutical and phenomenological. I can't tell you how impressed I was with this show, but I can tell you that it's a must-see.

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