“A TRIBUTE TO GAIA” is a painting in 3 sections, containing a center panel and two doors which fold over the center section when closed, like a traditional retablo. When opened a painting in 3 sections is revealed, one on the inside of each door and the center panel. Just recently Pope Benedict XVI announced the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks. She is considered to be the patron saint of ecology and environmental issues. Gaia, or Mother Earth, is featured in the center panel surrounded by seven children each representing a sin such as gluttony, violence and other evils. The inscription reads “Only when the last tree is cut; only when the last river is polluted; only when the last fish is caught; only then will they realize that you cannot eat money.”
Muñiz asks: “With a ruling omnipresent corporate global economy that diffuses and perpetuates its myths and doctrines over the globe through mass media we may ask ourselves: what hidden agenda do we finally serve by adopting these myths and doctrines? Where do our views of the current world come from? How has this information modified over time our attitudes towards nature, history and ourselves?” Muñiz tries to address these complex issues the world is facing in his art. His paintings utilize Greek Gods, Greek mythology, his Mayan roots, with popular culture to elucidate the dichotomies and destruction we live. Each painting is abundant with illusions and symbolism. “DIVINE INSPIRATION” is a splendid example of this. Inspired by Gustave Courbet’s “The Painter’s Studio” Muñiz portrays himself at the easel as the artist surrounded by Mars, the God of War, Ronald McDonald, Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, St. Francis of Assisi, Ganymede, and others, giving credit to the influence of both mythology and astrology on is life and art since childhood. On the floor of the studio are little monsters hiding an Nintendo game system and a Tonka truck pushing a world globe. Even the paper, Amate, on which this drawing was made is of significance. It is made from same tree fiber that was used by the Mayans in their sacred codices and is considered as strong as papyrus.
At first glance the paintings of young Puerto Rican artist Patrick McGrath Muñiz appear to be a strange mix of Classical and Christian figures intermingled with contemporary cartoon characters. The painting is so skillful that one is taken aback by this strange mix on what appears to be a stage setting. How and why did they all come together? Upon closer investigation, the figures reveal themselves to be pagan gods, heroes and saints surrounded by a declining empire invaded by lively, well loved Disney figures turned evil. Everywhere are suggestions of greed, violence, avarice, and a society gone awry. Muñiz says of his paintings: “ Painting allows me to recreate intimate theater stages where I set up and orchestrate mythical and historical figures into satirical narratives that mirror my world today. Exposing a dialogue with history and mythology allows me to question today’s assumptions of the demise of colonialism, borders and the myth of a new global age of peace, prosperity and equality.”
“SUPER SIZED HAPPY HOLLY MEAL!” is a re-interpretation of the pictorial theme of the Last Supper that comments on our fast food culture. Muñiz states, ”By bringing together some historical figures from the times of Christ, the conquest of the Americas and contemporary culture, I comment on the neo-colonial and capitalist control, distribution and consumption of food.” The table is abundant with burgers, fries, pizza, a supper sized sandwich, and a supper big soda. Below is a fat boy, dog, and beggar appear to be begging for food. Christ has a look of indignation. “This piece is a commentary on how we have produced, distributed, consumed and also viewed food from a Christian, Colonial and Global perspective.”
The paintings are generally in “retablo” formats and triptychs based on the re-presentation of sacred icons throughout art history. By incorporating Muñiz’s work into these gold leaf and carved wood frames inspired by Spanish Colonial traditions, the image conveys a strikingly new meaning. The work is attached to the Colonial period thus becoming a purveyor of Neo-colonial doctrines and myths. Some of his most elaborate frames Muñiz makes himself and others he designs and has carved by the Camargo family in Antigua, Guatemala. These young talented artisans specialize in Colonial altarpieces and Muñiz often collaborates with them on projects.
Born in New York City, Muñiz moved to Puerto Rico at an early age. His greatest influences are that of Puerto Rican culture and his very supportive family. “I can’t remember when exactly I became interested in art. I remember making my own comic books and spending many hours alone drawing from a very early age.” His first box of crayons was given to him by his aunt, a Catholic nun. She later gave him an Art Encyclopedia, which he still has. His brother and sister read Muñiz books on mythology, fiction and the life of the saints. Muñiz grew up hearing ghost stories, UFO sightings and about the mythic Chupacabras in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, a coastal town with some interesting industrial age abandoned ruins.
Muñiz describes his homeland in this way: “Puerto Rico is also a place where people are fixated with politics. Being neither a state nor independent, Puerto Rico remains a commonwealth and territory of the United States. This colonial condition keeps us in a state of political limbo living between two constantly changing realities: The American socio-economic influence and our Spanish cultural identity. Therefore cultural identity besides being myself half-Irish American and half Puerto Rican has always been an important issue for me.” While growing up he also witnessed local commerce decline and American fast food chains and other large corporations multiply.
Technology is an important tool in Muñiz’s creative process. He researches Religion, Mythology, Colonialism, and Globalization which are the four pillars of his art. He is also deeply interested in astrology. His work requires much more than a walk by. The longer you look the more you see. Each canvas is layered and filled with complex meaning. Each is filled with characters intentionally placed in a given environment and relationship to one another. Nothing happens by accident or without a great deal of forethought. His approach is fresh, intellectually sound and dense, besides being unique. Muñiz is a skilled craftsman but more importantly, his concepts are passionate and solid observations of our current dilemmas as members of the human race. Muñiz is sensitive and personally moved by the hypocrisy of modern society. His is a voice that deserves to be heard and the Jane Sauer Gallery is very excited to present this solo show by such a talented young artist. Patrick McGrath Muñiz is a rising star who exhibits nationally and internationally.