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Vik Muniz

February 28 - August 21, 2016


The High Museum of Art in Atlanta is the premiere venue for "Vik Muniz," a major touring retrospective of the work of the celebrated contemporary photographer, on view from February 28 through August 21, 2016.

Co-organized by the High and the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, "Vik Muniz" examines the full breadth of the imaginative artist's career and features more than 120 photographs, including many of Muniz's most recent works. The exhibition will travel internationally following its presentation at the High. (right: Vik Muniz (Brazilian-American, born 1961), Khyber Pass, Self-Portrait as an Oriental, after Rembrandt, from the Pictures of Junk series, 2005, chromogenic print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase with funds from the H. B. and Doris Massey Charitable Trust, 2005.288. Art © Vik Muniz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY)

Muniz (born 1961, São Paulo, Brazil) is distinguished as one of the most innovative and creative artists of the 21st century. Renowned for creating what he calls "photographic delusions," Muniz works with a dizzying array of unconventional materials -- including sugar, tomato sauce, diamonds, magazine clippings, chocolate syrup, dust and junk -- to painstakingly design narrative subjects before recording them with his camera. His resulting photographs often quote iconic images from popular culture and the history of art while defying easy classification and playfully engaging a viewer's process of perception. His more recent work utilizes electron microscopes and manipulates microorganisms to unveil both the familiar and the strange in spaces that are typically inaccessible to the human eye.

"Muniz's life and work are marked by a playful curiosity, a constant churning of creativity and an inventive approach to reframing conventional perspectives on the world," said Brett Abbott, Keough Family curator of photography at the High. "The High and the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography are delighted and deeply honored to have collaborated with one another and the artist to organize this important, mid-career retrospective of his work."

Muniz's wide-ranging inventions are amply represented in the exhibition, which is the most significant and comprehensive to date that weaves together the diverse phases of the artist's career. Recent work includes large photographs created using thousands of found anonymous snapshots, which are arranged to reference images from Muniz's own family albums. As in some of the artist's other series, these works communicate ideas related directly to the materials from which they are constructed. By visually conveying how changes in technology and the rise of digital photography have made family images less treasured and more commonplace, the photographs speak to the impact of these shifts on experience and memory.

Other featured recent work includes prints from Muniz's "Colonies" series, for which the artist collaborated with MIT scientists to employ microorganisms, including bacteria and even cancer cells, to multiply in choreographed designs. In these photographs, Muniz morphs the frightening into the beautiful, producing striking, intricate patterns from materials with largely negative connotations. The "Colonies" photographs also follow Muniz's affinity for bringing attention to social issues though his work -- in this case, the importance of medical research and vaccination.

New photographs on view include examples from Muniz's "Sand Castles" series, for which he built the world's smallest sandcastles using a scanning electron microscope to etch micro-drawings of castles on individual grains of sand. These photographs demonstrate Muniz's continued interest in experimentations with scale -- rather than featuring massive constructions photographed from a heightened vantage point, these sandcastle "drawings" are less than half a millimeter in length. The photographs also return to the artist's oft-examined theme of well-known subjects viewed in unexpected ways.

Other key works featured in the exhibition include:

-- "Vik, 2 Years Old" (2014), a large-scale photograph (approximately 8 by 6 feet) from the artist's "Album" series, which draws inspiration from specific typologies found in family photo albums of the early 20th century. The photograph entered the High's collection in January 2016.
-- Prints from the "Pictures of Garbage" series, for which Muniz worked with pickers from the world's largest landfill in Rio de Janeiro to construct images using garbage from the dump. These photographs include a re-creation of Jacques-Louis David's 1793 painting "The Death of Marat" and portraits of Muniz's collaborators from the Rio landfill created from rubbish they collected.
-- "Leda and the Swan, after Leonardo da Vinci," a photograph in the High's permanent collection from the "Pictures of Junk" series.
-- A re-creation of the iconic Hans Namuth photograph of Jackson Pollock working on a large canvas in his studio, made using chocolate syrup, from Muniz's "Chocolate" series.

The High and the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography developed the exhibition in collaboration with curator Arthur Ollman, photographer, professor and founding director of the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego.

Following its presentation at the High, the exhibition will travel internationally to venues including the Indiana University Art Museum (Fall 2016).


(above: Vik Muniz (Brazilian-American, born 1961), Double Mona Lisa (Peanut Butter and Jelly), from the After Warhol series, 1999, chromogenic print. Courtesy of Galerie Xippas, Paris. © Vik Muniz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY)


About Vik Muniz

Born in 1961 in São Paulo, Brazil, Muniz grew up in a poor working-class environment and showed early aptitude for drawing. His school lecture notes were most often composed of drawings of the presented material. Following an accidental shooting in which Muniz was injured, he received a legal settlement that afforded him the chance to study art in the United States. Over the past two decades, Muniz's work has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide and is currently included in the collections of major international museums including the Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The J. Paul Getty Museum; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo; the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; and the High Museum of Art, among others. Recently, Muniz was commissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to contribute artwork for the 72nd Street and 2nd Ave. subway station in New York, which will open to the public in 2016.

In addition to his artistic activities, Muniz is involved in educational and social projects in Brazil and the United States. His documentary "Waste Land" (2010) was nominated for an Academy Award and won the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best Film. In 2011 UNESCO nominated him Goodwill Ambassador, and in January 2013 he received the Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum. In 2014 Muniz finished building Escola Vidigal, a school of art and technology for low-income children from the Vidigal community in Rio de Janeiro. He has also been a guest speaker at major universities and museums such as University of Oxford; Harvard University; Yale University; the TED Conference; New York University; the International Center of Photography; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the High Museum of Art; and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, among others. Muniz lives and works in New York and Rio de Janeiro.


Wall text panels and object labels

To view wall text panels from the exhibition please click here.

To view object labels from the exhibition please click here.


Exhibition catalogue

The exhibition is accompanied by a 192-page, illustrated publication produced by Delmonico Books/Prestel in association with the High Museum of Art and the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography. The book features an essay by Ollman that traces the development of Muniz's art from its innovative beginnings to his most recent awe-inspiring creations as well as an interview with Muniz by art historian Diana Wechsler.


About the High Museum of Art Photography Collection

The High is home to the most robust photography program in the southeastern United States. The Museum began acquiring photographs in the early 1970s, making it one of the earliest American art museums to commit to collecting the medium. Today, photography is the largest and fastest growing collection at the High. With more than 6,000 prints, holdings focus on American work of the 20th and 21st centuries, with special strength in modernist traditions, documentary and contemporary photography. Holdings include the most significant museum collection of vintage Civil Rights­era prints in the nation as well as important groups of photographs by Harry Callahan, Clarence John Laughlin, William Christenberry, Ralph Gibson, Richard Misrach, Walker Evans, Peter Sekaer, Abelardo Morell and Wynn Bullock. The collection also gives special attention to pictures made in and of the South, serving as the largest and most significant repository representing the region's important contributions to the history of photography. Since 1996, the High's distinctive "Picturing the South" initiative has commissioned established and emerging photographers to produce work inspired by the area's geographical and cultural landscape. Past participants include Sally Mann, Dawoud Bey, Emmet Gowin, Alex Webb and Alec Soth, whose commissions have all been added to the High's permanent collection.


(above: Vik Muniz (Brazilian-American, born 1961), Jerusalem, from the Postcards from Nowhere series, 2015, chromogenic print. Courtesy of the artist. Art © Vik Muniz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY


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