Vik Muniz, a Brazilian born New York artist makes you think twice about photography. Upon entering Muniz’ Reflex at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center you may say, “not another bland photography show.” When you get up close you encounter much more than photography.
Muniz uses found materials in a different way from the found object assemblage you may have seen by artists before, he draws with his materials. Whether it’s dirt, ashes, chocolate, sugar, caviar, string or paper remnants made by hole punchers, each material is carefully composed to create tones, values, areas of light, shadow and color brilliantly. Some pieces are art history based, specifically an image of Jackson Pollack dripping paint, which is totally drawn from liquid chocolate. Another of a Mark Rothko, which is a photograph of square papers, put together to resemble Rothko’s painting.
The most irresistible series in the Reflex show are prints of pictures of wire consisting of 12 photographs of wire formed into various objects; shirt, suitcase, shoes, Van Gogh’s bed etc. Made to resemble pencil drawings when photographed, these wire sculptures have visual reward that one may not have gotten from the wire sculptures alone. Although such a simple subject when alone, the photos offer the illusion of drawings, which is far more engaging. This applies for all of Muniz’ works in the show. Muniz’ use of everyday material is used so intelligently and with a humor where the viewer feels gifted rather than cheated by maybe having wanted to see a photograph, painting or drawing.
Another astonishing series in the show was “Individuals”, a set of 52 photogravure prints. The prints were originally photographs of a clay-like material from which Muniz creates an unconstrained and spontaneous sculpture and photographs it allowing it to be destroyed and a new one created from the same material over and over. This repeated process of creation from the same matter is a freeing from itself, material, size and space while creating a claim to everything belonging to the same matter, which is changeable, an idea which originated from the ancient philosopher Parmendies.
After having experienced the Reflex show, which consisted solely of photography, one leaves with the feeling that they were exposed to a wide variety of artistic mediums including paintings, drawing and collage, not just photos.
MArch 6, 2007