Vik Muniz: Artist Portrait

Vik Muniz

Born 1961, Brazil.
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Vik Muniz Biography

Best known for his witty, unexpected recreations of canonical art historical and pop culture imagery, Vik Muniz creates intricately layered photographic works that explore the nature of visual cognition and the transcendent area between perception and reality. From a peanut butter and jelly Double Mona Lisa (indebted, of course, to Andy Warhol’s treatment of da Vinci’s original masterwork) to a Bosco chocolate syrup rendering of one of Hans Namuth’s photographs of Jackson Pollack, Muniz uses unconventional materials to heighten effect. His signature process – using mixed media and found materials to create large-scale renderings that are discarded after being photographed – again alludes to the constructed nature of memory and perception.

Vicente Jose de Oliveira Muniz was born in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1961. Muniz studied advertising at the Fundação Armando Álvares Penteado de São Paulo before moving to New York City in 1983. While he began his artistic career as a sculptor, Muniz shifted his focus toward drawing and photography in 1988 with his The Best of Life series, in which he reproduced iconic images from Life magazine from memory, and photographed the results. By the mid-’90s, Muniz had begun to incorporate unusual everyday materials into his process, as in his famous Pictures of Chocolate (1997) series. That same year, Muniz was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s New Photography 13 exhibition with a series of portraits, Sugar Children, depicting the children living on sugar plantations on the island of Saint Kitts. Muniz’s evolution toward socially-conscious subject matter continued with his 2008 series, Pictures of Garbage, a collaboration with the catadores of São Paulo’s largest garbage dump, which is chronicled in the Academy Award-nominated documentary Waste Land (2010).

Today, Muniz lives and works between Brooklyn, New York and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He has exhibited widely in numerous group and solo shows, and in 2001 represented Brazil at the 49th Venice Biennale. In 2011, Muniz was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in recognition of his social activism. His work is collected by numerous institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art and J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo.

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