Visual art has gone through several transformations throughout the years: styles, techniques, mediums, tools, themes, and several other elements have changed, offering us new projects for us to admire and reflect on. Vik Muniz’s artwork has revolutionized the concept of esthetic and transformed how we experience and think about art.
Fate took him from his native Sao Paolo to the United States, where he was finally able to develop as a creator. Muniz tells the story of how he came to find himself in North America. One day he noticed two people fighting in the street; he tried to break up the fight, but one of them pulled out a gun and shot him in the leg. Later on he received compensation from the person who shot him. It was with this money that he was able to move north.
The artist is not only interested in presenting his work to a crowd of art connoisseurs. He wants his pieces to be universal so that they capture the imagination of any member of the public. His creative reuse of elements we could consider waste transforms discarded items into beautiful things.
One of his most famous works is his series Images of Trash (2008). In order to create this, he spent approximately three years at what was the largest landfill in the world, Jardim Gramacho in Rio de Janeiro. The site was closed in 2012 due to the danger it presented to those living and working there.
To create something beautiful out of the disgusting is no simple feat. With the help of garbage collectors, the artist gathered objects to then place and arrange them as shapes and colors, that would result in large scale images he then photographed and auctioned. The proceeds went to the association of landfill workers.
Filmmaker Lucy Walker filmed the Oscar nominated documentary Waste Land (2011), where she followed Muniz’s entire process of creation.
Muniz presents his funny and playful side through his works made with food. He does tributes to the great masters such as Caravaggio, Jacques-Louis David, Goya, Gauguin, Monet, and several others. When we see them from afar they look as regular paintings. But when we get closer we begin to notice they’re made from edible items.
There’s also the Medusa Marinara (1997), made out of spaghetti, tomato sauce, and a pinch of oregano. We can also find the Che: Black Beans (2006).
The artist’s creative streak shows no limits. He not only makes large scale pieces, but also has a series of works that are only visible through a microscope. For the photographical series, called Colonies (2014), Muniz collaborated with a scientist from MIT to manipulate human cells to create symmetrical patterns that are visually striking.
Vik Muniz is definitely an unconventional artist. His use of versatile elements shows how art does not require brushes, paints, canvases, or sophisticated tools to create something worthy of awe.
Translated by María Suárez