Vik Muniz is one of the smartest and funniest artists that I have had the pleasure of working with. Last year, as part of the Artist’s Choice exhibition series, Muniz curated a show drawn from the Museum’s collection, and I worked closely with him to realize the project, titled Rebus. Muniz’s installation was one of the most memorable exhibitions from the series, and it gave me insight into the artist’s working process. This collaboration resulted from a long and ongoing relationship—since Muniz first exhibited his work at MoMA in 1997 in New Photography 13, the Museum has been showing and collecting his photographs. MoMA has recently added to the collection a key picture by Muniz, Action Photo, after Hans Namuth from Pictures of Chocolate, and we hope to continue our exploration and appreciation of this leading artist’s work.
To make his work, Muniz renders familiar images drawn from pop culture and art history in a variety of materials, and then photographs them. He has fashioned the Mona Lisa from peanut butter and jelly, Elizabeth Taylor from diamonds, Caravaggio’s Narcissus from junk, iconic news images from wet ink, and his self-portrait from dice. Muniz has referred to himself as an “illusionist,” and, with characteristic humor and ingenuity, explores the nature of representation in an image-saturated world.
One of Muniz’s most well-known bodies of work is a series of pictures rendered in chocolate sauce. Action Photo, after Hans Namuth (1997) is made after a 1950 photograph taken by Hans Namuth of Jackson Pollock frozen in mid-dance as he was making one of his paintings, Autumn Rhythm. Muniz’s subsequent appropriation and translation of this image into chocolate is a perfect marriage of subject and material. The viscous chocolate syrup (incidentally, he used the brand Bosco) is a perfect stand-in for Pollock’s wet, shiny paint drips. This new acquisition not only strengthens the Museum’s Muniz holdings, but is a welcome complement to MoMA’s rich Pollock collection.