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Vik Muniz’s latest series of large-scale photographs deliber ately evoke a double take. At first glance they look familiar\, a gallery o f stolen\, famous images: Courbet’s Origin of the World\, Monet’s Vase of F lowers\, Caillebotte’s Rib of Beef\, Whistler’s Symphony in White. But\, on closer inspection\, they are not quite what they seem. Each picture is a c ollage composed from hundreds of images culled from magazines devoted to to pics as varied as motor sports to guns\, artfully arranged according to col our gradient. This giddy mosaic of overlaid imagery\, which dissolves the p icture plane into a multiplicity of focal points\, has been scanned and enl arged so that you can see the hairs\, the fibers\, even the cellulose of th e torn-edged paper. Lit from a single source\, so as to imitate the natural light of a picture on a wall\, they look almost three-dimensional. Photogr aphy acts like a kind of glue\, revealing a dense\, rag-patch quilt of medi a imagery.

“They have to be ripped so they look more accidenta l\,” Muniz explains of his collage technique\, “as if they just fell there like confetti.” Muniz once had aspirations to be a psychologist and is inte rested in Gestalt theories of vision\, pattern recognition and completion. The artist’s work has long explored the idea of the deliberate accident – o r\, as Duchamp put it\, “canned chance” - playing on the tension between co ntingency and intention\, in how the eye and brain work together to\, as Mu niz calls it\, create ‘multi-stable images’. He has conjured up\, for examp le\, the Medusa’s head in a postprandial plate of spaghetti\, and other see mingly miraculous\, iconic images in chocolate syrup\, diamonds\, sugar and caviar\, where they manifest\, as if by chance\, like the stained outline of Jesus’s face on Veronica’s veil. In so doing he hopes to bring tired\, w ell-known paintings and exhausted poster store iconography (Chaplin\, Gueva ra\, Monroe) back from the dead.

In his collages\, Muniz ackno wledges the influence of 1960s rom affichistes\, artists who ripped off bit s of posters to reveal other imagery hidden underneath in their ragged\, su btractive dé-collages\; or Fluxus artists like Al Hansen\, who reconstructe d icons such as the Venus of Willendorf in waste matter\, including cigaret te butts and coke cans. His own work has long explored such contrasts of lo w and high culture\, of the can and canon. Indeed\, Pictures from Magazines 2\, Muniz says\, was inspired by his work in Jardim Gramacho\, Rio de Jane iro’s largest rubbish dump\, where in 2010 he collaborated with the catador es on enormous\, classical portraits created from the debris amongst which they worked (the subject of the Oscar-nominated film\, Waste Land).
< br /> “When you’re in Gramacho\,” Muniz explains\, “you’re surrounded by so mething that’s between object and substance. Garbage hasn’t yet turned back into nature yet\, it still has fragmentary bits of usefulness\, things tha t you can identify\, but it’s very confusing and tiring to look at because your attention is constantly diverted somewhere else.” Muniz draws a parall el with the saturated world of images in which we live\; one scans the exha usting overload of pictures in a magazine with subliminal attention before affixing on something of interest\, much as a garbage collector scours the dump. “The feeling of it all in your memory is similar to the junk\,” he sa ys. “Making a picture with all that crap is very symptomatic of the way we look at everything today\, full of distractions.”

In the contr asting\, pristine environment of the museum\, Muniz once noticed that visit ors were queuing to look at the paintings from a privileged viewpoint. From this distance they could just sense the picture frame\, allowing the subje ct of the composition to fill their visual field\, while allowing their eye to go inside it so as to explore the materiality of the surface\, where th e painting breaks down into an earthy mess of oil and pigment. He observed that viewers sometimes moved backwards and forwards\, rocking in a kind of trance as they explored this magical border between concept and matter. It is this crossing point\, Muniz contends of the encounter\, that is the subl ime in art: “These are the moments\,” he has said\,” that contain in their transcendence\, the very nature of representation.”

In his lar ge-scale photographs\, Muniz seeks to extend that moment of sublimity. The multiplicity of imagery used to compose his collages adds a mediating\, thi rd layer that further ensnares the viewer and makes reference to all the cu ltural and visual baggage they bring to their encounter with art. The indiv idual pieces that make up the overall jigsaw are pictures in themselves tha t draw in and slow down the movement of the eye\, frustrating any smooth re ading. It is hard to resist the search for meaning\, but Muniz tries to res ist whimsical juxtapositions\, preferring a maze of surreal non-sequitors: “a picture of a giraffe next to a firefighter next to a toaster - the crazi er and more stupid the better” (this suggests Lautréamont’s definition of t he beautiful “as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella o n an operating table). Everything is left deliberately ambiguous\, so as to offer only the minimal amount of security to the viewer whilst capturing t hem in a maze of confusing possibility: “I try to avoid any kind of closure \,” Muniz says\, “The moment you find closure in a picture your motion is t o pull away from it.”

Muniz has a scholarly interest in optica l illusions and jokes. “I explore both in my work\,” he says\, “and take th em very seriously”. Much as scientist looks at optical illusions to show ho w vision works by exploring the moments in which it breaks down\, he elabor ates\, linguists look at humor to understand language. At the climax of a j oke\, the rickety structure that has been conjured up in the mind of the li stener suddenly collapses. “At that particular moment you laugh and\, momen tarily\, you’re free\,” Muniz explains. “It’s that moment I want to capture in my art – the moment where you have to deal with things yourself – and y ou have to allow a lot of ambiguity to let that happen… In a way I want my art to work as a machine that facilitates that happening. I’m the watchmake r\, working in the back\, manipulating the gears in a certain way.”

DTEND:20130511 DTSTAMP:20140731T073420 DTSTART:20130402 GEO:-23.576375;-46.6791737 LOCATION:Galería Nara Roesler\,avenida europa 655 \nsão paulo \, 01449-001 SEQUENCE:0 SUMMARY: espelhos de papel\, Vik Muniz UID:268694 END:VEVENT BEGIN:VEVENT DTEND:20130402T200000 DTSTAMP:20140731T073420 DTSTART:20130402T180000 GEO:-23.576375;-46.6791737 LOCATION:Galería Nara Roesler\,avenida europa 655 \nsão paulo \, 01449-001 SEQUENCE:0 SUMMARY: espelhos de papel\, Vik Muniz UID:268695 END:VEVENT END:VCALENDAR