Monday March 13, 2006
Vik Muniz was a hit at Art Basel 2004 (less so in 2005), and Margulies has a couple of wonderful pieces of his, so expectations were high for the MAM solo show. Muniz has a startling trick – he reproduces existing images with off-the-wall materials, often in uncanny materials, and photographs the result. Fame has given him the resources to extend his technique to large-scale materials; the picture at right, Saturn, after Goya, is comprised of large scale junk (note the upright piano in the middle of the left edge).
It’s an impressive trick. Unfortunately, it grows tiresome through predictable repetition and over-reliance on art masterpieces from bygone eras. Muniz takes the strategy that Britto applied to the work of Keith Haring, and applies it to Thomas Demand. The exhibition catalog points out that recreating familiar images with surprising materials creates juxtapositions of meaning: “how is an image of the Mona Lisa made of peanut butter and jelly different from other images of the Mona Lisa?” If they mean that the Mona Lisa has become ordinary and everyday, then I get it. I also get that it’s fun. And while I enjoyed the joke when I first saw it, like a joke it becomes less interesting on repeated viewings, not more so.
The portraits made from circular clips of magazine pages continue to be effective, even while the tryptic recreation of Monet’s Lilies, obviously intended as a kind of tour-de-force, falls flat. The exhibition also brings some wonderful early work. A series of super-famous Time-Life images (man on the moon, 3d movie theater, etc), recreated by the artist from memory and re-photographed, out of focus and halftoned, makes for some interesting looking.
This exhibition is traveling, so in that sense it extends MAM’s reputation on the national museum scene. That is certainly a good thing; it’s comprehensive and wonderfully presented. It just has an air of ‘art for people who don’t like art’ about it.
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