Galeria Nara Roesler | São Paulo announces “Handmade”, the new exhibit by Vik Muniz, curated by Luisa Duarte. This third show at the Gallery sees the artist revisit past avenues and procedures with renewed strength in an acute, concise inquiry into the thin line between reality and representation, original object and copy. Featuring more than 70 works, Muniz casts aside all narrative tools as he lays bare the skeleton of his art-making process, all the while toying with viewers’ certainties.
“It always goes both ways. What you expect to be a photo isn’t, and what you expect to be an object is a photographic image,” Muniz ironizes. “In a time when everything’s reproducible, the different between the artwork and its image is all but nonexistent,” he adds.
During the research leading up to his recently released catalogue raisonné, Muniz realized how he’d relinquished a recurring procedure from early on in his career, when he wasn’t as involved in photography: the manipulation of the photographic surface after the capturing of the image. He then proceeded to reembrace those strategies, redoing and adding to the photographs. The result is an anthology-of-sorts comprising old and recent projects alike – one that’s rather stimulating in these Biennial times. “It’s like a menu of the ideas that I’ve drawn on, a compendium of strategies exposed in a very simple way,” sums up Muniz, who is also working on the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, of which he is one of the directors.
The audience will not see, in Handmade, artworks created from familiar images, nor references to mundane materials – both of which are staples of his output. Here, Muniz references the vast tradition of abstract art as he distills its basic formulae to create unexpected ways to meditate on the image and the object, the ambiguity of the senses, and the importance of illusion. Handmade outlines the artist’s constant concern with transcending the symbolic dimensions of image.
An instance of an investigation that does not culminate with the action of photographing is Two Nails (1987/2016), which is in a way a pivotal piece within Handmade, and one whose first version belongs to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Collection, in New York City. Stripped-down to a fault, the composition shows a sheet of paper hanging from two nails, one real, the other a photograph, creating a picture so ambiguous that it becomes impossible to tell the difference in a photo reproduction. “One must be facing the actual artwork. And even then, you won’t be sure,” Muniz stresses.
Apart from the paradoxical image-object relationship and the recurrent use of illusionist strategies – “Illusion is a key prerequisite in any type of language,” he ponders –, these artworks flirt with concept art and engage in intense dialogue with abstract, kinetic, and concrete art. Above all things, Muniz says, due to their shared interest in Gestalt theories, more specifically in the fields of psychology and science.
Repetition, rhythm, depth, spacing, the use of primary colors, or of subtle grey and black gradations are some of the central questions to abstraction that compose the alphabet that Muniz deals with in Handmade. But that’s not all he does. He taps into the constructive vocabulary to once again call into question the statute of image in the contemporary world. “The exhibition shows a different artist that’s me nonetheless,” he concludes